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Train drags car 5 blocks; 1 dead

One Ironton woman is dead and another remains in critical condition in a Huntington, W.

Wednesday, August 04, 1999

One Ironton woman is dead and another remains in critical condition in a Huntington, W.Va., hospital after their vehicle went around a crossing gate and was hit by a Norfolk Southern train Tuesday.

Nancy Sutton, 56, of South Fifth Street, Ironton, died shortly after she was transported to River Valley Health System from injuries related to the crash.

Her passenger, Mary Richendollar, 51, of Oak Street, Ironton, is listed in critical condition today at Cabell Huntington Hospital after being airlifted from the scene Tuesday.

At about 6:20 p.m., Ironton police and fire departments received an emergency report that a car had been struck by a train at the Center Street Landing railroad crossing, Ironton Police Department Detective Captain Chris Bowman said.

"The 1986 Cadillac El Dorado, driven by Nancy Sutton, collided with the southbound Norfolk Southern train at about 6:20 p.m.," Bowman said. "Mrs. Sutton was transported by Southeast Ohio Emergency Medical Service to River Valley Health System, where she died shortly after arrival. The passenger, Mary Richendollar, was taken by helicopter to Cabell Huntington Hospital."

An IPD officer waiting to cross the tracks reported that the crossing gates were down and the lights were flashing when Mrs. Sutton attempted to cross the tracks before the train, Bowman said.

"One of our officers was there waiting to cross to the other side and actually witnessed the accident," he said. "The caution equipment was working, but the driver apparently attempted to beat the train. She was traveling westbound when the southbound train hit her vehicle."

After impact, the train pushed the car almost five blocks to within 50 feet of the Jefferson Street crossing, throwing gravel and debris that broke windows out of cars parked along the tracks, witnesses said.

One rock broke through a window at Manzetti’s, hitting South Point resident Glen Seagraves in the back while he sat having dinner with retiring Ironton firefighter Jim Riedel.

Other Ironton firefighters at the retirement dinner rushed to the scene to assist on-duty fire crews.

Police and rescue workers marked off a one-block area on Second Street near KFC as throngs of concerned onlookers watched firefighters work to free the victims.

"We had to use the Jaws of Life to extricate the victims," Ironton Fire Department Chief Tom Runyon said. "We cut both doors off and part of the dash before we could free them from the vehicle."

The crowd continued to grow in number as Mrs. Sutton and Ms. Richendollar were rushed to medical facilities, and police began gathering evidence alongside Norfolk Southern investigators, who were unavailable for comment as of press time.

Ironton councilwoman Mary Lee Kennedy came to the crash site concerned about the victims.

"We’ll have to wait and see what really happened, but I can’t imagine anybody driving up and, if the gates are down, trying to go through," Mrs. Kennedy said.

Although the scene was cleared and victims removed within a matter of 45 minutes, the on-site investigation continued until about 8 p.m. when a wrecker service was able to clear the tracks.

Trains began moving again at about 8:10 p.m.

The incident is still under investigation at the Ironton Police Department.

– Tribune news editor Allen Blair contributed to this story.