Local News

Parents killed, newborn survives car-train wreck

Posted August 29, 2008 11:24 a.m. EDT
Updated August 30, 2008 9:34 a.m. EDT

— 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."