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Train kills couple; baby hurt

A rural Johnston County railroad crossing where a train-car collision left a week-old baby in critical condition and his parents dead Friday had no signals or gates.

The crossing is scheduled to have signals and gates installed in the next year and a half, state officials said.

The crash – at one of more than 1,000 such crossings in North Carolina with no mechanical warning devices – killed the driver of the car, Brannon Worth Brady, 25, and fiancée Crystal Lee Higgins, 22, both of Princeton.

The couple's 6-day-old son, Skylar, on the way to his first doctor's checkup, was thrown from their white Cadillac and lived through the passenger-side crash with a Norfolk Southern freight train. Skylar was in critical condition Friday night at WakeMed. The neighbor who found him lying in the middle of a patch of grass – as if someone had placed him there – called it a miraculous survival.

Brady's mother, Sandra Brady, and other relatives were waiting at WakeMed on Friday night for news of Skylar, who was born a week ago today. The baby had been in good health, said Sandra Brady, who would not comment on his injuries.

“He was a beautiful baby,” she said. “They were wonderful parents.”

The collision occurred about 10:30 a.m. at the spot where little-traveled Herring Road crosses the North Carolina Railroad line.

Witnesses told the Highway Patrol that the car's driver was proceeding very slowly, but did not appear to make a full stop at the railroad crossing.

Skylar, in the back seat with his mother, was thrown from the car; the Highway Patrol did not know whether he was in a car seat.

Stacey Jones, a former rescue worker who lives near the crash site and came running when he heard the unfamiliar sound of the train stopping, found the boy in the grass about 200 yards from the crash site. Rescue workers arrived at the scene about three minutes after Elizabeth Jones, Stacey's wife, called 911.

“I saw the car seat there and I couldn't find the baby nowhere,” said Jones, 34. “I picked up the baby and took off running and carried it to the ambulance.

“I was hoping he would make it.”

Brannon Brady, a Johnston County employee, and Higgins had planned to be married, Sandra Brady said, though no date had been set. Both had family living nearby. Skylar was their first child.

“They had their whole life ahead of them – a new baby and everything,” Sandra Brady said.

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