Woman Parked, On Phone As Train Approaches
GREENVILLE COUNTY, S.C. -- A Williamston woman is alive, thanks to the quick response of a police officer who got her out of her car seconds before an Amtrak train slammed into it -- and it was all caught on camera.
Every night, Greer police Officer Marcus O'Shields meets an officer from the Greenville-Spartanburg Airport to exchange information. Tuesday, just after midnight, O'Shields went to the meeting place near the Norfolk Southern tracks along Highway 80 near the Poinsett Bridge.
That's when he spotted a car driven by Betsy Devall stopped on the tracks.
Devall was on the phone with a friend. It took O'Shields nearly a minute and a half to convince Devall to get out of the car and away from the vehicle -- just 17 seconds before the train crashed into the car.
“You’ve seen the video,” O’Shields told News 4’s Mandy Gaither. “It tells the whole story. It's pretty graphic, and we don't see the rest of it, with the car catching on fire on down the track. It gets your nerves going pretty good.”
The Crescent Line train was headed to New York, and had just left the Greenville depot loaded with 180 passengers.
By the time it smashed into Devall's car, the 854-foot-long train was traveling more than 70 mph.
The incident was caught on camera by one of the officer's dashboard cameras. On tape, you can hear Devall thanking O'Shields for saving her life. She told him she wasn't familiar with the area.
Three passengers on the train were treated for minor injuries -- two for smoke inhalation and one for an ankle injury.
Devall said that she had been to visit a friend after work, and was on her way to another friend's house when she got lost and stopped to call for directions. She said she didn't realized that she had turned onto the tracks.
Doug Bryson with Spartanburg Emergency Management said that if Devall hadn't gotten out of the car, she wouldn't be alive.
"The condition of her car -- there's no way she should have survived that type of impact," Bryson said.
Bryson agreed that the officer ending up at his usual meeting place at the usual time made all the difference.
"He was in the right place at the right time," Bryson said, "Like I said, there would have been a much different outcome if he or any other witness had not been here to see that."
Police said the use of the cell phone was clearly a contributing factor in the crash, but at this time, no charges have been filed.