Elderly Salem woman hospitalized after crashing into train in Centralia

CENTRALIA — A train incident Friday afternoon in Centralia sent a 75-year-old Salem woman to SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital for treatment, after she reportedly struck the side of a Canadian National train at a West Calumet Street crossing.

Verna Piper reportedly struck a grain car with her vehicle when she reportedly drove around the crossing gates around 4 p.m. Friday in the 100 block of West Calumet Street.

Piper’s vehicle reportedly bounced off the grain car with enough force that the engine of the vehicle fell out.

Fearing the vehicle might catch fire, a bystander helped Piper from the vehicle, but no fire broke out.

Police say they had received reports of Piper driving erratically before going around the crossing gate, including running the stop sign at Locust and Calumet just moments earlier, leading them to think a health problem may have led to Piper’s actions.

The crew of the train wasn’t immediately aware they had been struck and had to be alerted to the situation. It was later determined it was a Canadian National freight train was involved.