Chesterton Tribune

Lifesavers pull woman from car before freight train plows into it

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A Michigan City resident escaped with her life early this morning after three passers-by pulled her from her car just before it was hit by a train on the Norfolk Southern line, Chesterton Police said.

She was, however, arrested on a charge of operating while intoxicated, police said.

According to police, at 2:55 a.m. an officer was dispatched to the area of the Norfolk Southern grade-crossing on Calumet Road, just north of the intersection with Broadway, in response to a report of a woman found slumped over the steering wheel of her 2002 Honda Accord, stopped southbound on the tracks.

The caller futher reported that he’d succeeded in rousing the woman—later identified as Courtney Althoff, 24, of Michigan City—but that on waking “she immediately made a left turn and drove down the tracks” eastbound, police said.

The caller with two of his friends—the CPD identified the trio of lifesavers as Justin Jeffress, 27, of Valparaiso, and Dustin Paliga and Kyle Hodgson—followed Althoff to a point 283 feet east of Calumet Road and there pulled her from the Honda, police said.

At which point an eastbound freight train, hauling 14 cars, plowed into the Honda and pushed it a further 183 feet to the east, police said.

Capt. Tony Coslet of the Chesterton Fire Department picks up the story from there. “The car was totaled,” he told the Chesterton Tribune today. And on fire. “It was fully engulfed on our arrival.”

Firefighters strung 550 feet of hose from the grade-crossing and walked the eighth of a mile to where the Honda had come to rest, on the north side of the tracks and lying against the train itself. “We had to hike to the scene carrying our tools,” Coslet said.

Firefighters extinguished the blaze but were forced in the process to open one of the train cars, a UPS semi-trailer, to check for any extension of the fire.

The CFD cleared the scene at 4:32 a.m.

Althoff, for her part, showed signs of intoxication, failed several field sobriety tests, and subsequently registered a blood alcohol content of .25 percent, police said.

She was transported to Porter County Jail.


Posted 1/26/2011