Bochenski's car got stuck on the railroad tracks with her 15-month-old son Henry inside. Unable to get him out, she watched as a train struck the car.
ELK RIVER, Minn. - Anja Bochenski was headed to her son's day care on a normal Monday morning when she experienced a parent's absolute nightmare.
Her car got stuck on the railroad tracks with her 15-month-old son Henry inside. Unable to get him out, she watched as a train struck the car.
Miraculously, Henry survived the crash with only a bruise. The Big Lake woman shared details of the terrifying incident and how grateful she is that the outcome wasn't much worse.
"I'm just happy that I can move on, and the worst that we have to worry about is getting a new car," she said.
On Monday morning, Bochenski was taking Henry to his day care in Elk River. Shortly before 7 a.m., she stopped to wait for a train at an icy railroad crossing.
When the train passed and the crossing arms went up, Bochenski started to go forward. Almost immediately, the arms began lowering again for another train.
Bochenski decided she couldn't make it across before the arms came down. She stepped on the brakes, but her car began to slide.
She thought maybe if she turned, she could avoid sliding onto the tracks. But the car in the lane next to her hit hers and pushed her onto the path of an oncoming Northstar commuter train.
Bochenski thought she could straighten out her car and get off the tracks, but her vehicle had been disabled in the crash.
"It wouldn't go," she said. "I put it into park, I put it into reverse, I put it into drive, and nothing would happen. So I thought, 'OK, I gotta get out of the car.' "
But the doors were locked, and she couldn't get out.
"I just started frantically pushing every button on the door to see if something would work, and the windows went down," Bochenksi said. "So I was able to unbuckle and crawl out of my window."
She ran around the car to reach Henry, who was in a car seat in the back. But the train was coming closer and honking. Bochenski didn't have enough time to get him out.
Bochenski began waving her arms at the train to get the driver to stop. The train was braking and slowing, but not fast enough.She had to get out of the way and watch as the train struck the car, spinning it around and around. She imagined the worst.
Bochenski ran up to her son, who was crying but seemed OK. She got him out of the car, and they went to a nearby building to wait for the paramedics and police.
They went to the hospital in an ambulance to make sure Henry wasn't hurt. He was shaken up, but had no injuries except a bruise on his collarbone from the seat belt.
Bochenski, who works at Eden Prairie-based SuperValu, stayed home Tuesday to recover. She said she keeps thinking about the accident.
"It's like your mind wants you to think that it didn't happen, or that it was a bad dream," she said. "You just don't want to believe that it was real."
Bochenski is convinced guardian angels were watching over her and Henry. If a single thing had happened differently, the ending could have been much worse.
On Wednesday, Bochenski went back to work in hopes that getting back to the routine would help her move on.
"I just feel like going forward, we're going to look at things so differently," she said. "We're just happy for the little things, and just happy we can move on with our life, and feel very blessed."
Bochenski is happy that Henry likely will not have any memory of the accident.
"Even this morning, he was watching Thomas the Train, and he was happy," Bochenski said.
Monday's crash was the first of two collisions this week involving Northstar trains.
On Tuesday, a car drove around a lowered crossing arm in Elk River and became stuck while attempting to do a U-turn on the tracks. The car was struck by two Northstar trains.
The car's occupants were able to escape before the crash, and no one was injured.