Sunday, October 9, 2011

Follow Up: 17 Year Old Severely Maimed In Near Fatal Stunt

Anna Beninati, the 17 year-old student who followed her friends in a near-fatal attempt to hop a freight train and fell beneath the wheels of the rolling train, suffering two severed legs, has survived and by all I can tell, she has begun rehabilitation in Utah, her home state.

Anna, who earned the nickname "Rush" from one of her high school teachers because of her desire to move on to the next thing in class, had at least two surgeries, probably more, since the accident to repair the damage suffered over Labor Day weekend last month. Watching the reports filter in that night left a very sad, sick feeling, mostly because, as a person who lives with his own disabilities, I know how much of a battle she is going to face. She will have to cope with the loss, physically, emotionally, and mentally. The challenges she will face will shatter her nerve, discourage her, and possibly make her despair of life itself. The difficulties will not go away after a semester or in a few years. It is with her for life, for all we know. How many of us made some bad decisions in a similar vein and never tasted the same bitter pill?

The patience of Rush Beninati, or lack thereof, will not be the only part of her character facing this test. Her strength, her skills at adjusting her own expectations for herself and her courage in just getting out of bed, when the time comes, are all going to be mountains of effort on her part. She will survive physically, but the challenges she will face are mostly still ahead of her. Kudos to her family for showing the strong support that they have. They increase her odds of making it, long term, as long as they stick by her. I feel my own immense measure of gratitude knowing how my own family has stuck by me for so long.

The good Samaritans who came to her rescue, possibly saving her life by doing the right first-aid techniques right away, were honored for their efforts a few weeks after the event. Denver's 7 News interviewed Nicole Crowley, who says she doesn't see herself as a hero.

Crowley said she was honored to be known as a hero but doesn't see herself that way.
"I don't necessarily say that I'm hero because that word is really just thrown around lightly, but that's what some people see me as," said Crowley.
One of the things Crowley remembers most is her quick thinking that helped direct rescue crews to the right spot so they wouldn't get stuck behind the train still blocking the road.
"Just knowing what would be helping to the oncoming crews, by telling them the exact injuries and the exact side of the railroad tracks so the ambulance could come from the right side," said Crowley.
She also said that the nightmares hadn't stopped. Trauma isn't just confined to the victim. Two of her friends, in addition to the trauma, got trespassing tickets. Anna did not receive the same, the police knowing she had suffered enough already.

It still bothers me that the BNSF crew has never been mentioned in terms of the impact of the accident on them or their well-being. I'm sure they know it's not their fault, but the nature of the accident is more than a simple grade crossing accident and it's likely to have it's own effect on the crew.

One thing is for sure: Healing takes time. There's just no way around it.


  1. Thank you for this update. Having been a daily newspaper reporter in a railroad town (Nampa, Idaho), the story made me shudder. I covered a story about a boy who lost an arm playing "chicken" with a crew kicking cars (no one saw him because the sorting yard is behind a cement elevator).

    Thank you also for remembering the crew's trauma. I interviewed a fireman who walked away from his train after they struck a drunk at about midnight. In following up, I discovered that he never went back to railroading, and blamed the stress. The engineer took the train into the crew change point and demanded to run it to the next point (Pocatello). He told me if he didn't, he'd never work again. Fortunately, the roadmaster agreed but went along to make sure the engineer was OK.

    I also suffered the agony at a grade crossing accident of comforting my partner photographer when she discovered her best friend's baby in the ditch. The mother was maimed beyond recognition and the police called it suicide.

  2. Thanks, Michael. Those experiences are terribly rough! I'm sorry that you had to go through that with your co-worker. I have comforted a parent by the side of their child who had just passed suddenly and I can tell you it's a trauma for all involved. It's painful beyond description. It was good for you to be with her, though, I'm certain. It helps so much to have someone you know with you in those moments.


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