Car vs. Train on 6-19-19

A Lincoln woman was listed in critical condition Wednesday night, June 19, after being airlifted to University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital after her car was hit by a train in Talladega.

TALLADEGA -- Pearl Smith, 69, of Lincoln, remains at University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital recovering from injuries she sustained when her car was hit by a train earlier this month, according to social media. 

But as it turns out, Smith was not the only survivor of that horrific accident.

Talladega police Detective Lisa Garrett said she felt drawn to the scene of the accident despite it not being a criminal matter, meaning there was no need for her to go in her professional capacity.

In a Facebook post two days after the accident, Garrett said, “When I got to the scene, all I saw was mangled metal and a destroyed vehicle. The driver had already been taken to the hospital, waiting on the helicopter. 

“After notifying the family members, one of them informed me that there was a dog that was always with the driver, a black dachshund (named Paige) who was always with the driver and rested on her chest.”

Garrett asked the officers on the scene to look around for the dog, assuming she had either jumped from the car or been thrown by the impact. They found no sign of her around the crash scene, and Garrett was similarly unsuccessful. 

The day after the accident, Garrett said she spoke with Smith’s sister, and “she asked me to please check on the dog again, because she is so timid. The driver loved her dog. 

“I told her I would go to the wrecker service and look, hoping to at least retrieve her body. I went to the wrecker service around 8:40 a.m., a full 12 hours after the wreck to see what I could find. I wanted to at least give some closure.”

At the salvage yard, Garrett said she looked underneath what was left of the seats and again found nothing. 

“I went to the back of the vehicle, the window was all broken out, and there was the face of Paige, staring at me,” Garrett wrote on Facebook.

Garrett said the dog was startled at first. 

“She was not making a sound at all, just staring,” the detective wrote. “There she was, alive, survived the impact, the ride on the wrecker and the car being settled in at the wrecker service. The wrecker driver never saw or heard her because it was dark, and she never made a sound.” 

The dog was uninjured, “not even a scratch,” Garrett said.

“The family is elated, and I hope the news motivates the owner to continue to improve,” she added.

Specific word on Smith’s condition was not available Wednesday, but based on postings from her family members, she opened her eyes for the first time two days after the accident, although she remains in critical condition.

Smith was driving a Toyota RAV-4 on June 19 around 8:30 p.m. when she was struck at the unguarded Court Street crossing.

The train carried her vehicle all the way to the crossing at East Street, where it tore the guard arm off the north side of that crossing. Firefighters had to cut her out of the vehicle before she could be transported.