Atwater woman escapes car before train crushes it

ATWATER, Calif.

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Millie Todd tried to stop when she saw the lights flashing and crossing arms coming down. But she was accidentally knocked onto the tracks by the driver behind her, and ended up with just seconds to make a life-saving decision.

A wave of emotion washed over Millie Todd as she looked at her mangled car sitting in a tow yard and realized just how close she came to losing her life.

Millie was driving home from the elementary school where she works when the lights at the train crossing started flashing. She tried to stop, but was rear-ended by the car behind her. The impact caused her Dodge Neon to stall in the path of an oncoming Amtrak train. "I tried to start it, and it wouldn't start. I thought I'm not staying in it."

Millie got out of the car just seconds before the train slammed into it.

Millie's husband, David Todd said, "She kept trying to explain it to me, like the movies, it's just like the movies. The train hit the car, the dust, the parts, everything."

David Todd says he's just thankful his wife escaped in time, and that their 10-year-old daughter wasn't with her. "I don't know if she would have had time to get her and our daughter out."

Highway patrol officers say the Amtrak driver managed to slow down to just under 80 miles per hour before the crash, and no one on the train was hurt. But the impact sent Millie's car flying about 50 feet.

California Highway Patrol Officer John Moran said, "She probably would not have survived this crash had she not gotten out of the car."

Millie says despite the very close call she's not angry at the driver who accidentally bumped her onto the tracks. "No, I'm not upset with him. I'm sure he's going through his own emotional stuff right now."

Instead she's counting her blessings. "You're here one day and you could be gone the next, and I'm lucky I'm here."

The crossing arms actually came down on top of the car that hit Millie, but that driver was able to back up out of the way and was not hurt.

As for the train, it was heading to Bakersfield at the time of the crash and was delayed about 45 minutes as a result.

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