JACKSON TOWNSHIP, Ohio — An elderly woman died in a tragic train car collision just before noon Friday morning.
The Honda Accord was traveling East on Portage St. between Whipple Ave. and Freedom St. when it crossed over the train tracks and was struck broadside by a Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad train.
“She never slowed down, never saw brake lights, drove in a straight line,” said Chris Olson.
Olson was driving in the right hand lane and says he saw the safety gates lowered and began slowing down, but the female driver kept going.
The locomotive was moving at 22 MPH, and hit the driver’s side door instantly killing 85 year old Wiladine VanWert of Canton.
“Like something out of a movie,” said Olson, “I was waiting for her to slam on the brakes…and it never happened.”
Initially there were reports that maybe the safety gates weren’t functioning properly but state troopers and witnesses say that’s not the case.
Two engineers operating the train saw the Honda crossing on to the tracks but couldn’t stop the rain.
“They tried to activate the emergency brake but it didn’t get the train stopped in time,” said Sgt. David Garber, Ohio State Highway Patrol.
None of the train’s crew members, or 2 passengers were physically hurt but everyone was shaken up.
Craig Tallman, President and CEO of the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, offered his “sincerest condolences to the family of the victim.”
The not for profit rail service is part of the only national park in Ohio and in its 40th year of operations. In all of those years of passenger service, no one can recall any other train car collisions.
The State Highway Patrol Canton post and Stark County Coroner’s Office are investigating while witnesses just try to shake the terrible images of what happened on such a quiet ordinary afternoon.
“I felt really sad about it I had never seen anything happen like that before,” said Chris Olson.