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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Norfolk Southern trains returned to both of the elevated tracks about Station Square on Wednesday.
The sounds of their horns and rumble on the tracks the normal sounds of life on the Southside. That is not what 14-year Port Authority Employee Princess Ferguson heard inside her booth at the Station Square T-Station on Sunday.
“I start hearing a really loud noise, “Ferguson said.
It turned her attention to the east end of the platform.
That’s where Jeff Davis was sitting waiting for the T.
The unusual screech and noise of the train turned his gaze upward.
“It’s rocking side to side, probably 15-20 degrees right over where I’m sitting and I think this doesn’t look right,” Davis said.
At that moment, just to his left the freight cars, “started coming down the hillside.”
“I just saw two cars coming down and then nothing but dust after that,” Ferguson said. “I jumped up and grabbed my phone and I ran out of the booth.”
Running seemed like a good idea to Davis at that moment.
“I figured, I can outrun these things because they weren’t going very fast,” he said. “And I started running.”
As he ran from the derailing cars he was stunned to see Ferguson running toward him and the tumbling tons of steel.
”While we were running away, she was running up to make sure were getting away,” Davis said. “She was yelling get out and asked me if anyone else was there.”
Ferguson says her reaction was reflex.
“I wasn’t even thinking about the train at that time coming down, I was thinking about my passengers getting off that platform.”
There was one passenger on the inbound side and Davis and another man on the outbound platform.
Ferguson was adamant, “Everybody was just running and the dusts was coming behind them and everything and I’m up here let’s go, let’s go, let’s go. It was like we were doing a scene from a movie. It was unbelievable.”
When everything stopped and the dust starting settling, Ferguson and Davis realized the severity of their situation.
“Thank god there wasn’t no trollies coming through there or anybody got hurt,” Ferguson said.
It’s the what-ifs that bother Davis.
“I thought about how many things could have gone wrong,” Davis said. “It was Listerine, if it had been hazardous explosives I’d be dead. You can’t out run a fireball.”
Ferguson says she and the other employees who work the Station Square T have often thought about the possibility of a tragedy if a passing train above ever fell off those tracks. It makes her nervous to think of returning to work there.
Port Authority CEO Katharine Kelleman, who is full of praise for Ferguson’s handling of the situation, said she doesn’t need to worry. When she’s ready to return to work, they’ll have a spot for her at the South Hills Junction station.
Ferguson says for now she’d just like to get some sleep.
“Once I got home and tried to go to bed all I kept seeing was that train coming down when I went to sleep so I really didn’t get no sleep for the last couple days.”
She may be tired but she’s also thankful, “God was with me that day.”
Derailment and Cleanup
Just as rush hour got rolling on Wednesday afternoon, the Smithfield Street Bridge reopened to all traffic.
Drivers using the bridge will have to turn west on Carson Street. Carson Street from Arlington east to 10th Street also reopened.
The section of Carson between Smithfield and Arlington will remain closed for further cleanup but may be open sometime Thursday.
Repairs to the Station Square T station will begin once all the debris is clear. Until the rails are repaired “T”s will continue to run over Allentown and delays of 20-30 minutes will continue during the morning and afternoon rush hours.
Clean up of the debris continues and the cause of the derailment is still under investigation.