Tara Lewman drove up to a railroad crossing in Batavia, Iowa, on Monday afternoon, and stopped because the gates were down. To the east was a freight train parked on the tracks, and after an unknown length of time, she made the tragic decision to drive around the gates—and two of her children ended up dead. The parked train blocked her view of the oncoming westbound train that hit her Dodge Caravan, the Des Moines Register reports. Kallie Clark, 5, and Erika Clark, 4, were killed. Lewman, 25, and Jordan Clark, 1, were taken to the hospital; their conditions are not known.
A witness describes a heart-wrenching scene to KCCI: "I heard the sound of impact. When I got there, she was trying to pull her baby out of the car seat. It had been thrown out of the van. The other two were laying quite a ways away from the van. She would talk, but she was totally incoherent. She just kept talking about her babies." Locals say drivers go around the crossing arms often, and one woman says she recently saw a near-miss. "I’ve just been hoping that something like this didn’t happen," she says. The crossing has seen two previous vehicle-train collisions since 1975, one of which killed a car passenger. (Read more train crash stories.)