ANAHEIM, Calif. -- A Lake Forest woman who died from injuries suffered when her car was struck by a freight train in Anaheim dialed 911 to report her predicament and was being urged by a dispatcher to get out of the car when the phone went dead, police said Tuesday.
Linda Kruger-Small, 68, was in a 2005 Honda Civic that got stuck on Burlington Northern Santa Fe tracks just south of Lakeview Street and Orangethorpe Avenue Monday. The car was struck by a freight train traveling from Chicago to Los Angeles.
Anaheim police Sgt. Rick Martinez said police received a 911 call from a woman asking for help because she was stuck on railroad tracks.
A dispatcher who was advising her to get out of the car was able to hear a man trying to help the woman -- but then the line went dead, Martinez said.
Motorists who stops at the signal at Orangethorpe Avenue, a T-intersection, have to cross the tracks before turning right or left. Martinez said the woman may have miscalculated and instead of driving over the tracks to turn on the street, turned right or left on the tracks, the sergeant said.
Had that happened, "the car could have become disabled on the tracks," he said. She may have not been able to move the car forward or back up.
The bystander, who unsuccessfully tried to get the woman to get out before the train struck the car, pulled her from the vehicle after it was hit, Martinez said.
The woman was taken to a hospital where she died.
Martinez emphasized that until a full investigation is complete police will not know for sure what happened.
Lena Kent of BNSF Railways said Monday that the crossing is in a designated quiet zone, where the conductor does not normally sound a whistle, but he did when he saw the car on the tracks.
To qualify for quiet zone designation, the crossing has enhanced safety equipment including a concrete median. The equipment is maintained by the railroad and was working, Kent said.
"Why it was sitting there, we don't know," Kent said, adding that the woman would have had to drive onto the tracks before the gate arms lowered.
Martinez did not know how much time Kruger-Small would have had between getting on the tracks before the arms lowered and when the train struck the car.
He said he has driven it and it appears to give ample warning, but once events were set in motion, "things happened very fast."
Police were still searching for additional witnesses, Martinez said.