Teen who survived train crash says they weren't playing game - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Teen who survived train crash says they weren't playing game

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The accident happened about 12:30 a.m. Tuesday at a railroad crossing about one mile east of Poplar Bluff. The accident happened about 12:30 a.m. Tuesday at a railroad crossing about one mile east of Poplar Bluff.
Butler County Coroner Jim Akers says the teens were playing a game called "Ghost Train," in which a car is parked on the tracks purportedly awaiting a "ghost train" that wrecked many years ago. Butler County Coroner Jim Akers says the teens were playing a game called "Ghost Train," in which a car is parked on the tracks purportedly awaiting a "ghost train" that wrecked many years ago.
Haley Whitmer Haley Whitmer
Tori Swanson Tori Swanson
Katie Fowler Katie Fowler
POPLAR BLUFF, MO (KFVS) -

One of the girls involved in a deadly train crash disputes claims. She says they were not playing the "Ghost Train" game.

Kacey Ogden says while the stories lured them to the tracks, she says they would never stop their car on the tracks and dare the train to hit them.

"I know everyone says we were playing a game but that's not what happened," Ogden said.

"When we do go out there to look for the ghosts, that everyone says is out there, we always park off the tracks," Ogden added.

According to legend, those who play the ghost train game sit in their car on the tracks let the windows fog and wait for the train.

Ogden says that's not what happened.  She says the car had mechanical problems. 

She says they tried to get out but not everyone could get out of the car, perhaps because they couldn't get the seat belt unhooked.

She says if there's two things she wants everyone to know it's that Haley Whitmer is a hero because she tried to save her friends and that they were not intentionally sitting on the tracks waiting for the train.

The crash happened about 12:30 a.m. Tuesday at a railroad crossing about one mile east of Poplar Bluff.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol says the victims were 15-year-old Victoria Swanson and 17-year-old Haley Whitmer, both of Poplar Bluff. A third girl, 15-year-old Kaitlyn Fowler, is in serious condition. Two other girls were able to escape.

"All them girls, they were my best friends and it's hard," said Ashlee Chadwick.

However, Butler County Coroner Jim Akers paints a different story.  He says the teens were playing the game.

"We didn't learn of this til last (Monday) night," Akers said. "Two of the girls that had gotten free had mentioned it to a couple of the Butler County Sheriff's deputies. Several of us had smartphones, started googling this. And found out that it actually said this crossing. And so we started asking more questions. The parents who were supervising last night were all aware that the girls had this planned. Some of them even said that their daughters were infatuated, were obsessed with this ghost train."

But Akers said the Jeep wouldn't restart. Relatives told Akers the girls had played the game many times before.

The Jeep was stopped on the tracks at a railroad crossing on County Road 554 also known as Wilcox Road, one mile east of Poplar Bluff, according to the Missouri Highway Patrol.

Two of the girls had trouble unbuckling their seat belts. Haley Whitmer initially got out of the Jeep, but went back to help the other two girls.

"I know she's a hero," Chadwick said. "She got out and she was safe and she knew that her friends were in there and she knew that they were in her care. And so she did what she had to do and she went back, even though it meant risking her own life and losing it, she went back. Because that's just the type of person Haley is. I would do anything to have them back, anything, anything in the work. Anything. I love them all so much."

No one on the train was hurt. None of the train cars left the tracks.

The crossing had only a passive warning crossbucks sign, with no crossarms or signal lights.

Authorities say they will work hard to make sure this type of thing doesn't happen again.

"What I was amazed at is this isn't only in Butler County, Poplar Bluff, but there are cities throughout the U.S. that had similar stories," Akers said. "There's a whole website for this. If we can learn anything from this tragedy, is to get parents to make sure their parents don't do this."

"We're going to do our part to make sure that people aren't congregating, teenagers aren't congregating out here and that the legend doesn't grow," said Butler County Sheriff Mark Dobbs. "It's something that needs to stop completely."

Several people turned out for a candlelight vigil Tuesday night at Wilcox Road near the accident site.

Kaitlyn Fowler is in a hospital in St. Louis preparing to have another surgery on Friday. She has her family around her.

Kaitlyn's mother says she is in critical condition, but she's stable and trying to talk. She's on a ventilator. She squeezes her families hand and is alert.

She no internal injuries which they are thankful for. However, she has a broken femur and pelvis, a fractured sternum and collar bone and numerous other injuries. Her left hand is also broke.

Amber Fowler, Kaitlyn's sister, was also in the car and survived.  She is 17.  Amber Fowler is shaken up but doing well.

Officer Steve McCane with the Poplar Bluff Police Department and his family set up a fund for the teenage victims.

The fund is set up at Southern Bank in Poplar Bluff.

If you wish to help, you can donate to any branch.

Funds will be divided between all three families.

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