Local News

Parents killed, newborn survives car-train wreck

Posted August 29, 2008
Updated August 30, 2008

— The parents of a 6-day-old boy died Friday morning when a freight train hit their car in Johnston County, authorities said. The infant was hurt but survived.

The wreck happened along U.S. Highway 70 Alternate outside of Princeton. Authorities said the car was trying to cross the rail line at Herring Road when the train hit it.

The Norfolk Southern train, which was loaded with coal, pushed the car about a quarter-mile down the track before coming to a stop, authorities said.

Brannon Worth Brady, 25, and Crystal Lee Higgins, 22, who both lived in Princeton and were engaged to be married, died in the wreck. Witnesses said Brady pulled up to the rail crossing and tapped his brakes but didn't stop and was hit as he pulled onto the tracks.

Authorities estimated the train was traveling at 17 to 20 mph and that the wreck was caused by a combination of Brady initially not seeing the train and his then trying to beat it to the crossing. The crossing has no warning lights or crossbars to indicate a train is approaching and to block access.

Higgins was sitting in the back seat of the car with her infant son, Skylar, when the car was hit, authorities said. The baby wasn't in a car seat – it's unclear whether Higgins was holding the child or the baby was lying on the back seat – and the impact threw him from the vehicle, authorities said.

Stacey Jones, who lives nearby, arrived at the scene immediately after the wreck.

“The Lord works in mysterious ways. He just told me to go walk up the train track,” Jones said. He said he saw the train slowing down and figured something was going on.

Jones said he could see Brady and Higgins in the mangled Cadillac, but they didn't respond when he tried to help. He said he then found Skylar in a grassy area near the tracks about 100 yards away.

"I saw a couple of bags laying on the ground, (and I) looked over there and I saw the baby," he said. "(He was) just kind of lying there. He moved a little bit once I picked him up. He cried a little bit, and I checked him to see if he had a pulse and he was still breathing.

"I kind of turned him on his side, let him cough up the little bit of stuff he was (coughing) up. I was hoping he's going to make it," Jones said.

Skylar was taken to WakeMed, where he was listed in critical condition in the intensive-care unit Saturday morning.

"The baby was just born five or six days ago. They were on their way for its first check-up at the hospital," family friend William Otis Daughtry said. "It's just a sad time for us all here in Johnston County."


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  • mscarbor Sep 2, 2008

    This is such a sad story! That poor family! That poor little baby boy! I hate reading things like this!

  • cmeenan80 Aug 29, 2008

    Seriously, some people need to read stories of such seriousness word by word. It clearly states there was no crossing barrier or warning lights, something common in small rural areas for those who rarely leave the big cities. I know from travelling for work how scary it is that in some of these areas you will be suddenly come across such a crossing and it can be very difficult to see if a train is coming without creeping close to the track.
    Horrible sad accident.

  • NCTeacher Aug 29, 2008

    Rev RB- I don't usually agree with you, but I think you are dead right on this one. At this point, does it really matter how it happened? We have a 6 day old baby that survived by the grace of God and who will grow up never knowing his birth parents.

    It is a very sad situation, but at the same time a miraculous one. I am thinking that this baby is destined for something and praying that a wonderful couple will adopt him.

  • kittiboo Aug 29, 2008

    I am wondering if the daddy wasn't distracted by what was going on with the baby in the backseat and that is perhaps why he didn't see the train? Wouldn't the train have been whistling like crazy, though? That noise is hard to ignore- maybe there was negligence on the conductor's part? Maybe we'll never know, but I sure hope the family finds peace and the baby will recover and find a loving home.

  • bbad238 Aug 29, 2008

    I don't know why everyone thinks he was trying to beat a train. All indications point to the fact that he probably never saw the train, or saw it and it was too late. It was a terrible accident that I blame on the government for not marking this crossing.

  • Adelinthe Aug 29, 2008

    "The baby wasn't in a car seat..."

    That may well have saved the little one because at that age, their very limber, but of course, their neck and head are very vulnerable.

    We may never know exactly what happened, and it's useless to guess or look for somewhere to place blame. The baby's parents are dead, and he is injured. He needs our prayers, and that's what's important.

    God bless.

    Rev. RB

  • jse830fcnawa030klgmvnnaw+ Aug 29, 2008

    I am very sadden this happened. It appears to me the driver was trying to go past the train, and the parents lost. It is difficult to understand how anyone could not see or hear a train in motion up close.

  • loudnoises Aug 29, 2008

    How many times must it be said: The Train ALWAYS wins. Look both ways at all crossings. Don't 100% rely on crossing gates as a simple power outage can render them out of service.

  • teacher-mom Aug 29, 2008

    The railroad crossings without signals and rails are very dangerous. They are usually in remote areas. You can be on top of them before you realize they are even there. There is no excuse, there should lights and rails at every crossing: no exceptions. I would have given 150,000 to save those people.

  • kbo0801 Aug 29, 2008

    I am very sad that this happened. Coming from a parent with an infant son this really breaks my heart and the fact that Skylar and my son have the same carseat carrier makes it even worst. I pray that Skylar has some responsible grandparents or family that will care for him. God bless this family.