Mikayla Davis watched in horror as a train smashed into her car – where her three-year-old son was sitting in his car seat. At the end of this nightmarish ordeal, Davis’ mother still believed that someone was watching over the toddler, and with good reason.
Davis hailed from Duryea, a borough on the banks of the Susquehanna River in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. On March 13, 2018, she took a drive with her sister Jenna and her son Camden, a three-year-old who loved singing and Scooby Doo.
The trio made their way down York Avenue in Avoca, Pennsylvania, which is a few minutes away from Davis’ home in Duryea. But the normality of their drive would quickly disappear when they reached a railroad crossing.
At most such crossings, drivers see flashing lights and hear a bell about 30 seconds before a train is scheduled to pass through. Most have gates, too, which lower to prevent cars from passing in front of the train. This takes place around 20 seconds before the locomotive appears.
Most of the time, this process goes off without a hitch. Drivers heed the warning, wait for the gates to rise and safely cross the tracks. But there are still approximately 5,800 train-car crashes annually in the U.S., the majority of which happen at railroad crossings, according to the Department of Transportation.
When Davis drove onto the tracks in Avoca, she could not have known that she would soon become part of this statistic. But Davis quickly realized that she, her sister and her son were in danger – something was wrong with the crossing’s gates.
Once the vehicle was on the tracks, the gate in front of her closed, which meant that a train was on its way. Davis’ sister Jenna later told FOX 31, “I said, ‘Back up! Reverse!’ She reversed.” But the car was stuck.
That’s because “the back gate was already down,” according to Jenna. “We bumped it a little bit,” she added. “And I said, ‘We need to get out right now.’” The adults easily exited the vehicle, but three-year-old Camden was still strapped into the backseat.
Davis and Jenna moved as fast as they could to free the three-year-old, but his mother tripped over as she rushed toward the back of her car. “We don’t care if we die at this point. Just him, we want him to be OK,” Davis said.
Jenna arrived at the three-year-old’s side first, ripping the back door of the car open, but she didn’t make it in time. The train smashed into Davis’ car with the door wide open and her son still inside.
“I blacked out,” Davis recalled. “You really do black out. All I remember is trying to get him out, and when the train took the car, I blacked out. I blacked out completely. I’m thinking my son is dead.”
When Davis refocused on the scene in front of her, she still felt nothing but fear – she didn’t want to look at her car and see the aftermath of the crash. “I thought the car was going to be on fire or something, and my three-year-old is in there,” she admitted.
So it was Davis’ sister who made the first move – and she didn’t find a burning vehicle. “My sister said, ‘He’s crying. Go get him,’” Davis recalled. “And I saw him alive. I was just so happy. I was so happy.”
To Jenna, her nephew’s unanticipated tears were “the best sound in the world. We didn’t expect to hear him cry,” she said. “[Davis] went over, and she got him, and that’s when I called 911.”
Emergency services arrived on the scene and found that the three-year-old was not only alive, but also somehow completely uninjured by the crash. They called it “a miracle” and credited his car seat for protecting him from a tragic outcome.
Camden’s grandmother, Maureen Davis, echoed the sentiment of the first responders who deemed her grandson’s survival to be miraculous. “They had somebody with them,” she said. “There’s no doubt after seeing that car that somebody was with them.”
As for Davis, all she could do was cherish her son after he’d walked away from the crash unscathed. “I can’t stop hugging and kissing him,” she said. “Like all day, I just keep hugging and kissing him. He really is my world.”
At the time of the accident, the cause of the crash was unknown, but Avoca police and railroad police were investigating. In some cases, those involved in a train-related crash receive financial compensation, depending on the reason for the incident.
Although there are typically cautionary measures in place – gates, lights, bells and so forth – there are some things that drivers can do to ensure they’re safe when crossing a train track. By lowering the music and the windows, for instance, they can hear if a locomotive is coming.
After that, the driver should make sure that all tracks are completely clear before passing through. And, if the car happens to stall on the crossing, it’s best to exit the vehicle straight away.