How did a baby survive in a car that was hit by a train?

A mother and her infant son are not injured after a Northstar Commuter Rail train hit their car Monday morning in Elk River — the mom was able to get out before the train hit, and then got her baby out after the car was hit by the train, according to Metro Transit spokesman John Siqveland.

So, what’s the full story? How did a baby survive in a car that was hit by a train?

Mixed news reports came out after the incident — after Metro Transit tweeted incorrect information that a Northstar train hit an abandoned car.

Siqveland later corrected the information after an investigation by Metro Transit Police.

How did the baby survive with no injuries? It may have been the way the train hit the car: It clipped it on the front right passenger side, causing it to spin and move off the tracks, instead of pushing the car forward along the tracks until it was able to stop.

The mother didn’t have time to get her baby out of the car seat before the train hit. She tried to move the car off the tracks first, without success.

Here’s how it happened, according to Siqveland:

  • Two cars were at a stop at Proctor Avenue NW, just northwest of downtown Elk River, waiting for the gate arms to come up as another train passed on the railroad tracks. One of the vehicles was driven by the mother, with her baby in a car seat.
  • The gate arms went up and the intersection opened up.
  • The two cars were making their way through the intersection and then “somehow in that vicinity, they came into contact,” or crashed, Siqveland said, at a very low speed.
  • “That’s not known exactly how that happened,” Siqveland said. “But the result of it was the one car passed through the intersection, and the other one got stuck on the tracks.” He added that the car carrying the mother and baby slid onto the tracks after the crash with the other vehicle.
  • Although the cause of the accident has not been confirmed as weather-related, snow fell by the inches across and around the metro Monday morning.
  • A northbound Northstar Commuter Rail train was traveling just northwest of Elk River on the tracks, approaching the intersection.
  • The mother tried to get the car off the snowy tracks as the train was approaching.
  • She couldn’t move the car, but got out of the car.
  • The train struck the right front passenger side around 7 a.m.
  • The car was “clipped” by the train and spun off the tracks.
  • The mother got her baby out of the car and walked to a nearby business for help.
  • The train, which was braking when it hit the car, took about a quarter mile to come to a complete stop. “A commuter train takes a long time to stop because of the bulk of the vehicle and the speed that it was going,” Siqveland explained. It was on its route from Minneapolis to Big Lake.
  • Paramedics, firefighters and police officers arrived at the business.
  • The mother and baby were taken to an area hospital, then released shortly afterward after evaluations showed no injuries.
  • The train was delayed for about 30 minutes until the scene cleared.
  • According to Siqveland, this is the first incident of a Northstar train hitting a vehicle.