(St. Stephen, South Carolina – October 23, 2012)
How Peggy Huff is still alive and hopeful to be able to walk again is nothing short of a miracle. The 54-year-old St. Stephen, SC resident admits “I should be dead” after her 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee was struck and separated into three main pieces by an Amtrak passenger train at the dangerous, unguarded crossing of Nursery Court and CSX railroad tracks September 11, just a minute from her home. Huff was found by rescue workers still strapped in her driver’s seat and virtually sitting between the tracks.
Peggy remembers nothing of her ordeal. She crossed those same CSX tracks “at least six times a day,” and was very wary of the brush-and-tree enshrouded crossing which she was crossing northbound about 1:30 P.M. that Tuesday afternoon as a Savannah, GA-originating train headed for Washington, D.C. with 94 passengers on board approached at an acute angle from the southeast. The crossing is “protected” only by standard, passive railroad crossbucks and a highway “stop” sign, lacking any active protective devices such as flashing lights, bells and crossing gates, the likes of which railroad sources have claimed would prevent over 90% of such accidents. An average of eight trains, including Amtrak trains, cross the Nursery Court/CSX crossing daily at speeds as high as 79 mph.
The victim was flown to Medical University Hospital in Charleston, SC by helicopter, where she was found to be suffering from her neck being broken in three places, her back broken in five, both her hip and pelvis broken, her rib cage dislocated from her chest and her left lung collapsed. She awoke in the hospital five days later, and is confined to a wheelchair and a walker as she recovers from her injuries.
“I never thought I would ever get hurt on that track,” Huff laments, adding that “I never thought anything like that would ever happen.”
But it did, Peggy is still alive, and has two missions: “We need to get some kind of of safety arm, traffic arm, or something across that track, not only for me, but for other people who have to cross that track. I don’t ever want it to happen to somebody else,” she says of her crusade to get active protection at the crossing. And while doctors say she will be walking again by Christmas, Peggy believes otherwise: she intends to walk by Thanksgiving so she can bring the turkey to the table herself!