Nichole Scott escaped with only minor injuries in Monday morning's accident. "She was very, very lucky," Madison County sheriff's Maj. Ron Richardson said.
The Conrail train, its crew unaware of her plight, dragged Scott's car until the car apparently hit a railroad sign at another crossing and was jarred loose from the train.
When rescuers finally found the 19-year-old woman, her car was demolished but she had suffered only cuts, bumps, and bruises.
Scott was stopped at a railroad crossing, on her way to classes at Ball State University, when a pickup truck hit her from behind in the fog, Richardson said. The impact sent her car directly into the train's side.
Scott said she saw the truck approach in her rear-view mirror, reports Ruth Ann Gordon of CBS News Affiliate WISH-TV. That's when she shut her eyes. When she opened them, she realized she was attached to the train and riding down the rails.
"I could see the train right there beside me," Scott said.
She added that she was scared but knew she was all right for the moment. "I really was more scared about when my car was going to fall off," she said. "I kept thinking, 'What if the car rolls?'"
"We have no way of seeing these things. When our engineer went by, the car was sitting there" at the crossing, Conrail spokesman Ron Hildebrand said from the rail company's offices in Philadelphia.
The search for Scott started after the pickup's driver, Ross K. Schroeder, 25, told deputies there had been a car in front of him at the crossing and that it had disappeared.
As the train was pushing her car down the tracks, Scott dialed 911 on her cell phone. Police dispatchers could hear a woman screaming for help and the sound of a train in the background, Sheriff Terry Richwine said.
"Some guy has hit me," she shrieks on the 911 tape. "And I'm being dragged by a, by a train. Oh, please help!"
She couldn't clearly hear the dispatcher's questions and eventually the call was cut off. Scott also called her mother, Patricia Scott, on the phone, managing to cry out only, "Mom! Mom! I've been hit!" before the call broke off, the mother said Tuesday.
Two high school boys alerted authorities after they saw the car being dragged. Scott was standing outside her wrecked car when rescuers arrived. She was taken to a local hospital for treatment and released.
Schroeder suffered cuts on his hands but declined medical treatment at the scene. He was cited for driving without insurance, Richwine said.
The train was traveling 29 mph when the accident happened, the Conrail spokesman said. At that speed, it would have taken roughly seven minutes for the car to be dragged 3 1/2 miles.
"I just had visions of nother serious accident," Hildebrand said. "She's really lucky she wasn't seriously injured."