DOVER — A honking car may have saved one woman's life Monday afternoon, but came too late for a friend who was struck and killed by a train.
While Deborah Sweat and Amanda O'Neil walked on railroad tracks along busy Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, O'Neil heard a car horn. She turned to look, thinking it was someone trying to get their attention.
When she turned around, she realized the driver was trying to warn them of a train headed for them. O'Neil grabbed her friend's arm and tried to pull her to safety, she said, but instead fell down an embankment alone.
Sweat, 47, died at the scene, 14170 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
The two were on their way from a grocery store, headed toward Staggs Tree Service Nursery, which Sweat's fiance, Dennis Stagg, owns and where Sweat worked, O'Neil said.
The Sheriff's Office listed the address of the nursery, 13824 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., as Sweat's home.
O'Neil said they were walking on the tracks around 2 p.m. because there is no sidewalk.
"If there was a sidewalk on this road, then we wouldn't have to worry about the railroad tracks," O'Neil said.
Neither of them heard the train coming, O'Neil said.
The train was traveling about 60 mph, said the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. When its conductor saw the two women walking on the track, he sounded the horn.
He continued to sound the horn as Sweat was struck, witnesses told deputies.
The freight train was carrying automobiles from Louisville, Ky., to Tampa, said CSX spokesman Gary Sease. It had two locomotives and 15 railcars.
CSX will know more about the accident once it looks at the train's event recorder on Tuesday, he said.
Though many improvements have been made to safety at railroad crossings, Sease said, pedestrians walking on the tracks remain a problem.
"They don't always hear approaching trains for whatever reason," he said. "Another problem is that the trains can't stop quickly. Even at slower speeds, it would take some time for a train to come to a stop."
Sweat's family gathered at the nursery Monday evening. Her sister, Lisa Sweat, arrived moments after the accident happened.
"She was lying there in pieces," Lisa Sweat said.
Shelley Rossetter can be reached at (813) 226-3374 or email@example.com.