Five teens inside a Jeep were playing a game, based on ghost legends, when they parked on railroad tracks just after midnight Tuesday morning.
“They were playing a stupid game called ‘Ghost Train,’ and the object is to get scared, kind of like telling stories on Halloween,” said Butler County Coroner Jim Akers. “The game was to park on the tracks, let the windows fog up inside and let your mind play tricks on you.”
But the game took a deadly turn when a real Amtrak train approached and the driver couldn’t restart her vehicle, Akers said. Three of the teens got out safely, but two girls in a panic couldn’t unbuckle their seatbelts in time. The Jeep’s owner returned to the car and helped unbuckle her friends, just as the train smashed into the vehicle, Akers said.
Victoria E. Swanson, 15, and Haley M. Whitmer, 17, both of Poplar Bluff, died at the scene at 12:30 a.m. Tuesday. The girls were on summer break from Poplar Bluff High School.
Kaitlyn P. Fowler, 15, of Poplar Bluff, was seriously injured, the patrol said. She was taken by medical helicopter to St. Francis Hospital in Cape Girardeau, then transferred to Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, where she was in critical condition this afternoon.
Two other teens who were standing along the tracks escaped injury, Akers said.