Woman and toddler killed by train in Derry

← Back to Forums


This woman got a stroller stuck in the tracks and was not going to leave her boy behind in a stuck stroller. I don’t blame her, even though she has other kids that need her. I’d rather die than leave a kid stuck there.

I don’t feel that way about my beloved bicycle, though.

Any time you cross railroad tracks, be very careful. Particularly with loaded bikes or trailers. I’m guessing that IF you were going to do it with kids, you would want to unload the kids and get them across first – although seeking alternate routes would likely be mroe advisable.

In any case, look for and listen for trains. Be mentally prepared to NOT spend “just a second or two” to save your bike.



A 37-year-old woman and her 2-year-old son in a stroller were killed Friday after they were struck by a freight train while crossing railroad tracks in Derry Borough, authorities said.

Last night, the Westmoreland County Coroner’s office was not identifying the victims — both borough residents — pending notification of next of kin.

Two other children who were with the woman were on the opposite side of the tracks when the train came and were not injured, said county Deputy Coroner Chris O’Leath. The children were taken to a local hospital for observation, he said.

The accident occurred shortly after 5 p.m., less than 100 feet from where a 15-year-old Greensburg Salem student was struck and killed by a train in July.

The railroad corridor cuts through the town and the area of tracks where the accident occurred is used as a shortcut by some residents.

“This is a place … where people use this instead of walking 50 yards across the bridge (a pedestrian walkway on Route 217),” said Dan Stevens, county public information officer.

Sondra Short said she watched helplessly as the tragedy unfolded. She believed the stroller became stuck on the tracks.

“I was hollering, ‘Get off the tracks,’ ” she said. “She was struggling to pull the stroller across. She saw the train, but her attention was on the stroller.”

O’Leath said the woman was thrown about 50 feet. Short said she saw the stroller being dragged for several feet by the train.

Stevens said the woman was returning with the four children from grocery shopping.

Amy Senak of Derry said she saw the woman crossing the tracks with the children at about 4:40 p.m., en route to shopping.

“I saw her coming across … and she got the stroller stuck on the railroad tracks,” Senak said. “As soon as I heard somebody got hit, I figured it was her.”

Heather Gelsdorf, also of Derry, said she rushed outside and ran to the nearby tracks after a man came to the Dollar General store, where she works, and recounted the accident.

She said she saw a person lying along the track and a stroller in the distance.

Borough Mayor Susan Bortz said police Chief Randy Glick witnessed the accident.

“He’s a mess,” she said.

Glick was on patrol in the downtown area of the borough when he saw the woman start to cross the tracks, Bortz said. Glick got out of his car and shouted to the woman not to cross the tracks, but she did not heed his warning, she said.

The Norfolk Southern train, with 30 cars and two engines, was carrying freight from Secaucus, N. J., to Chicago, said railroad spokesman Rudy Husband.

Husband said railroad police were called to the scene, and the crew would be interviewed and replaced before the train continued on its route.

Husband said up to 80 trains pass through the borough on any given day.

Sidewalks on a bridge that carries Route 217 across the rail corridor are the only legal pedestrian route.

Bortz said borough officials had been working to improve pedestrian safety along the tracks after Douglas E. “D.J.” Albright Jr., 15, was killed by a freight train on July 16. He was staying at his mother’s Derry home before starting 10th grade at Greensburg Salem High School.

Last month, borough officials said they were hoping to build a pedestrian bridge over the tracks. Council President Allen Skopp said private funding was used for a similar crossing in Hershey for $800,000.

“We’re working on that,” Bortz said. “We’re working very hard. Funding is the problem.”

Bortz said the borough was working with PennDOT, Norfolk Southern and three consultants to develop a budget for the bridge.

“I was on the phone earlier this morning with one of the consultants,” she said.

Bortz said the borough would seek funding from the state and federal government. Local funding and private donations might also be used, she said.

Meanwhile, pedestrians continue to take shortcuts across the tracks, despite numerous warnings from borough officials and police.

Bortz pleaded with members of the public to walk the few blocks to the Route 217 bridge, or to call a friend for a ride if their mobility is limited.

“This is not just a local government problem,” she said. “They need to take responsibility.”

Train kills two in Derry Borough


Sad story. All to save a few minutes.


Sad news.

I’m glad they realize that the real solution is a pedestrian bridge, though. If you look at the road bridge on Google it has a narrow, inhospitable sidewalk and will take you several blocks out of the way.


…narrow, inhospitable sidewalk and will take you several blocks out of the way…

‘Nuff said.

Actually no, not ’nuff said. Those five tracks under the Glenwood Bridge include the two in this story. It’s only a matter of time until traffic picks up through Duck Hollow and we start having stories like this a whole lot closer to home — unless we get a decent way to get across the tracks via the Glenwood Bridge.

← Back to Forums

You must be logged in to reply to this topic. Click here to login.

Supported by