The driver of a car that was hit by a train May 3, near Highland has been identified.
Capt. William Dimitroff of the Madison County Sheriff’s Office said the driver was Ana Isabel Cantrell, 19, of Pierron.
Cantrell graduated from Highland High School in 2016.
“She is a lovely girl and was a good student here, and I am saddened by what happened,” said Highland High School Principal Karen Gauen, adding that Cantrell was a hard worker in school.
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Brenda Priesmeyer, the kitchen manager at the Highland Home, where Cantrell had formerly worked, echoed Gauen.
She was there, and the train was there. That is all I can tell you at this point.
Highland-Pierron Fire Department Chief Steve Plocher
“She was a very good worker when she was here,” Priesmeyer said.
Cantrell’s Facebook page lists that she also worked at Hardee’s and Hi-Top Bowl and that she has been a student at McKendree University since 2016, studying special education.
Cantrell also chose her hometown as Nokomis, Illinois, and the page shows that she moved to Highland in 2000.
The accident occurred around 8:30 a.m. at an unmarked crossing on Farmlane Road, near Veterans Honor Parkway.
Cantrell was inside a four-door Suzuki sedan when it was broadsided by the CSX train, then pushed about 1/4 mile down the tracks before the train was able to stop.
“The car was actually stuck to the front end of the train,” said Highland-Pierron Fire Department Chief Steve Plocher.
The Highland-Pierron Fire Department, Highland Emergency Medical Services and the Madison County Sheriff’s Department responded to the scene. When the EMS and fire departments arrived, the driver was alive and trapped in the car.
According to Highland EMS Chief Brian Wilson, after seeing the scene, the responders knew more personnel would be needed. Staff from the Highland Fire Department was brought to the scene. At one point, he said there were 12 to 15 firefighters on the scene.
Wilson said they were all thinking of different ways to get the car detached from the train. Quick thinking and team work helped the different departments get the victim out of the car more quickly than what was initially anticipated.
“They did an awesome job and worked together flawlessly,” Wilson said.
Eventually, the emergency workers decided the best course of action would be to back the train up with the car chained to the tracks. According to Wilson, the car finally dislodged from the train after 30 minutes.
Wilson said that the emergency workers tried calling in an air medical service to transport the driver, but because of the inclement weather, a medical helicopter could not transport the patient. The patient was transported to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Highland with “potentially life-threatening injuries,” according to Wilson. It was confirmed that Cantrell is not listed as an in-patient at St. Joseph’s. It is unknown what her condition is and what hospital, if any, she has been admitted to.
It is also still unknown why Cantrell was on the tracks.
Plocher speculated that she might have not seen the train coming, because it is an unmarked crossing, and there is a house on one side of the tracks that could block the view.
“She was there, and the train was there. That is all I can tell you at this point,” Plocher said.
She is a lovely girl and was a good student here, and I am saddened by what happened.
Highland High School Principal Karen Gauen
Cantrell’s condition is unknown.
“I know the driver of the passenger car was taken to a local hospital at the time of the crash, but I do not know where she is at this time,” Dimitroff said.
There have been no charges placed on either the driver or the train engineer at this time, according to Dimitroff.
“My thoughts and prayers are with Ana and her family,” Gauen said. “She is a lovely young lady, and our best wishes and hopes for recovery go out to her.”