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Woman, son unharmed in train accident

May 26, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
A woman and her son escaped unharmed as a freight train smashed into their minivan stuck on railroad tracks in Elm Grove, Wisconsin.The woman's husband and a police officer were badly injured coming to their rescue.

Monica Ensley-Partenfelder, 40, was driving the van with her two-year-old son inside on Memorial Day. Her husband Scott was behind her in another car with their other two children. For some reason, the minivan got stuck on the tracks as a freight train approached.

Tim Weiner watched it all unfold.

"She was actually on the other track, she might have been OK if she had stayed there but obviously you don't know those things," said Weiner. "So she came flying and tried to go over the track and she got her wheels caught and the back end kind of swung around and she was stuck. The police officer came out of nowhere, this fellow came out of his car."

Officer John Krahn, 41, ran to the driver's side of the minivan to help Ensley-Partenfelder.

"He got her out and threw her back, obviously he could see the train coming," said Weiner.

Meanwhile, Mr. Partenfelder was at the back of the minivan trying to get to his son, but there was not enough time.

"And then the train just blasted them," said Weiner.

Despite the collision, the child, who was still in the van, was not hurt. However, both Mr. Partenfelder and Officer Krahn were thrown several yards by the impact.

Weiner ran over to try to help the men, reaching Partenfelder first.

"He looked to me like he was dead, but he wasn't," said Weiner. "I ran over to the officer and he looked like he had dislocated his shoulder and he definitely broke his leg. And he just told me, 'Go to the car, get the kid out of the car.' I mean, here he was laying in pain and all he thought about was getting that kid out. Amazing."

Weiner ran to the crushed van and got the boy.

Partenfelder was rushed to the hospital and underwent eight hours of surgery. He is still listed in critical condition. Officer Krahn, also hospitalized, was listed in satisfactory condition.

Investigators are still trying to determine what exactly caused the minivan to get stuck on the tracks.

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