By Jared Ritz
When an Amtrak train hit a car near Chinook on Friday, the impact tossed the car's engine 165 feet. But Sarah Noyes, the driver, walked away unscathed.
"It was the grace of God and my seat belt. I have to give credit where credit is due," the 28-year-old Noyes said.
Noyes was heading north on a county road about two miles west of Chinook about 5:30 p.m. when she came to a Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway crossing. Noyes, who lives 13 miles east of Chinook, said she was going to have supper with new friends and and was not familiar with the crossing.
She told Montana Highway Patrol officers that she looked both ways when she came to the crossing didn't see anything coming, the highway patrol said. She said glare from the sun obstructed her view from the left.
As she began to cross the track, an 11-car train hit the front end of her 1999 Dodge Intrepi. The Empire Builder, heading from Seattle to Chicago, was going 79 mph, said BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas.
The impact turned her car a full 90 degrees, causing its rear end to hit the train, the highway patrol said. After the impact, the car came to rest in a ditch on the north side of the highway, 56 feet away from the original impact site, the patrol said.
Once the car came to a rest, Noyes opened the driver's door and stepped outside, she said Monday. The driver of a pickup came over to help. They used his cell phone to call authorities and her husband, she said.
Noyes was not taken to the hospital for a checkup, and said she has no injuries.
The crossing is marked with yellow and black advisory signs, the highway patrol said. There were no electronic warning devices at the intersection.
Noyes was cited for disobeying a signal indicating the approach of a railroad train. If the ticket stands, Noyes could be fined a maximum of $100.