SMITHS STATION, AL (WTVM) - A Smiths Station High School teacher has been released from the hospital and is recovering after a devastating train collision on Monday, July 28.
Twisted metal, airbags deployed, and personal items scattered everywhere are all that's left of the SUV that Vivian Martin was driving when she crossed the path of a train running parallel to Lee County Road 430.
Martin teaches Genetics and Forensic Science at Smiths Station High School. Classes don't start until August 5, but faculty reports a week early. Martin had just left the school shortly after 12 p.m. to take her lunch break when the accident occurred at the rail crossing right outside the school's parking lot exit.
Looking at the damage, it's amazing to think that anyone could have survived this crash. Martin not only survived with non life-threatening injuries, she's expected to make a full recovery after spending the night in the hospital.
Some of her friends from a nearby Baptist church rushed to the scene as soon as they heard the news.
"I looked, and there were no crossing markers, no markers that come down to let you know that the train is coming," said Deloris Vaughn, who attends church with Martin. "There's nothing, I don't see anything. There's a stop sign, and if you stop, there's no markings to say 'hey, the train is coming, let's put this down so traffic can stop.'"
Witnesses say Martin was crossing the railroad tracks at around 12:21 p.m. Monday when she was hit by a train. The Jaws of Life were used to remove her from the vehicle.
Police say there doesn't appear to be an obvious contributing factor or special reason why Martin end up in the train's path, other than just plain not seeing it.
Like many railroad crossings in lesser populated areas of Georgia and Alabama, there are no mechanical arms to block cars from passing. Drivers are on their own to look for a train and listen for the horn before going across the tracks.
Law enforcement officials urge special caution to anyone who may find themselves at one of these rail crossings without the flashing lights or mechanical arms.
It's very easy to be complacent, especially if you hardly ever see a train pass by there, but giving it one extra look could make the difference.