A schoolteacher was killed by a train yesterday when her car skidded on to icy rail tracks as the barriers of a level crossing came down.
The 30-year-old tried frantically to free her vehicle, its wheel trapped by a railway sleeper, as the Peterborough to Lincoln service bore down on her. Witnesses raced in vain to free her as the amber lights flashed.
The train threw her Rover 216 into the air, killing the woman, from Spalding, Lincolnshire. But the collision, did not derail the locomotive and no one else was injured, although the driver and several passengers were treated for shock.
Sgt Dave Kay, of Lincolnshire Police, said: "I don't know what was going through her head and why she didn't get out of the car. She may have been thinking of all the passengers on the train and selflessly tried to save them, or she may not have spotted it bearing down on her. We'll never know."
The collision took place after what should have been a minor accident in icy conditions, exacerbated by the fact the train was running two minutes early. The teacher was heading towards the tracks at South Drove, near Spalding, when her car clipped a Ford Transit van loaded with tools passing in the opposite direction.
"Her car skidded out of control on the sheet ice and on to the level crossing. Her front tyre got stuck down the side of a railway sleeper, trapping the vehicle," said Sgt Kay, adding that the ice had made the road treacherous. "The passengers of the Transit van veered to a stop and immediately got out and ran back towards the crossing to help the woman. As they left their van the amber light came on – giving them just 37 seconds before the train arrived.
"They sprinted the 70ft to the crossing but could not reach the woman in time. She was trying to free her car, moving it backwards and forwards."
The 8.33am East Midlands Trains service, travelling at 50mph, hit the car, catapulting it 40ft through the air on to a bridge. Its roof was ripped apart from the windscreen."
Meanwhile, the AA said it expected to deal with 16,000 calls yesterday, almost twice the seasonal average, as drivers slid on icy road surfaces.