A heroic father of East Ridge, Tennessee, died after being struck by an oncoming train while trying to save his daughter whose foot was trapped between the tracks, according to News Channel 9. At approximately 2 p.m. on Thursday, 31-year-old Justin McCary was walking on the train tracks near 900 N. Sanctuary Rd. in Chattanooga with his niece Mercedes Peters and his 10-year-old daughter Haley when they suddenly heard a train headed in their direction.
McCary and his niece quickly moved out of the way but turned to see that Haley was still on the tracks with her foot stuck. McCary returned to the tracks to help free his daughter, but after a few moments of struggling to set her free, he only had enough time to push her out of the way of the oncoming train. He pushed her over the bridge to safety, which according to her family was a “15 foot fall into the water below.”
Meanwhile, Peters stood on the side screaming in horror after witnessing her uncle push his daughter over the bridge and being struck by the train. She said “All I could do was stand on the ledge and ask Justin if he could hear me.” She immediately called 911 and tried to calm Haley down, who suffered a broken pelvis and internal bleeding, according to WRCBTV.
When the paramedics arrived, both McCary and Haley were rushed to a local hospital where he later died. Haley underwent surgery and is expected to make a full recovery, but her family has since created a Go Fund Me page to help with medical expenses.
His niece was traumatize by the tragic incident, but says “I knew he did the right thing, being a good dad. That’s how I’m handling it. I wouldn’t want him to go any other way. He would do anything for anyone, especially his daughter. And that proved that’s the best way to go for him, for his kid.”
Donna Edwards, who was McCary’s neighbor, said, “I think that any of us would have done the same thing. Our hearts go out to them. It’s just sad that something like this had to happen.”
Sources say that the walkway on the bridge was shut down due to an earlier accident in July, causing McCary, his daughter, and niece to cross on the train tracks, which local residents say is a “dangerous spot.” “You only have a few seconds, once it come around the bin, to make sure you’re clear of the truck. So we always stop, look, and listen,” said a resident who lives nearby.
In lieu of repairing the walkway, a sign saying “Warning: Walkway Out of Order” was posted at the site. Attorney Jay Kennamer said that the sign should have alerted the drivers of the train that pedestrians would be crossing. He says “They should have known it was being used for this purpose, and if it were, the railroad would certainly be in the position of superior knowledge to come up with a plan to remedy the situation.”
Kennamer also stated that Audubon Acres, which is a real estate development “should have contributed.” He said: “They have a duty to protect their business invitees from the danger of being hit by a train. It is under their control there at the entrance of the property.”
A local resident, Deangelo Johnson, said that McCary’s decision to give up his own life to save his daughter was brave. He said: “This guy…he is very brave for doing this. I mean, anybody would be scared to die like this, getting hit by a train. But to save his daughter, that’s very brave.”
[Image via YouTube screen capture]