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4 Killed as Car Pushed Into Path of Train After Chase, 911 Call

April 21, 2000|From Associated Press

SINKING SPRING, Pa. — A woman fleeing her estranged boyfriend made a frantic cell phone call to a 911 dispatcher Thursday before her car was pushed into the path of a freight train by the car chasing her. The woman was killed, along with another woman and two children in the car.

"We feel that we have a good idea who is responsible for this tragedy, and we're pursuing that person now," state police Cpl. Bruce Edwards said.

Police did not immediately identify the man, who fled the scene in his car.

The crash followed a chase in and around town that lasted for about half an hour and reached speeds up to 90 mph, police said. Sinking Spring, a town of about 2,400 people, is 50 miles northwest of Philadelphia.

The woman's car went around a car that was parked at the crossing--the gates were down because of the oncoming train--and pulled up to cross the tracks but stopped, state police Lt. Ed Snyder said.

"The second vehicle came up behind her and struck her in the rear. The second vehicle then pushed the first vehicle onto the tracks," Snyder said.

Edwards said the woman had called 911 while stopped at the railroad crossing and was talking to the dispatcher when her car was struck.

The freight train was going about 40 mph at the time of the collision, Edwards said. He said the engineer applied the brakes but was unable to stop in time. The woman's car was dragged nearly 60 feet before coming to a rest, Edwards said.

A 9-year-old girl at the scene said she was playing nearby when she saw the tragedy.

"I heard this screech of the train trying to stop," said Racheal Kohl. She said she saw the car "twirling and twirling" and the four people were thrown from it.

One of the women and one of the children died at the scene; the other woman and child were airlifted to a hospital but later died.

Police identified the fleeing woman as Candace Wertz, 20, of Sinking Spring and said her 2-year-old son, John Michael Cortez, was killed. The other child was a 6-year-old girl, police said. Her name and the other woman's name were not released.

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