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Local Woman Cheats Death On The Tracks

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- A Conshohocken woman is trapped in her car as a speeding train bears down on her. The train didn't stop in time.

The accident happened a few months ago and until now she has not spoken publicly about the crash.

Recently, the woman behind the wheel shared her survival story exclusively with CBS 3's Susan Barnett.

This past May, CBS 3 broadcast exclusive and dramatic video of rescuers saving a driver from the twisted metal of her car.

Susan Lonker was the woman in the car when it was slammed by SEPTA's R-6 train at Cresson Avenue and Queen Lane in East Falls.

Lonker viewed the rescue video documented by CBS 3's helicopter that evening.

It was the first time she saw the dozens of rescuers pulling her from the wreckage, which only seconds before had been her car.

"The doctors at the hospital told my sister that people don't come out of an accident like that, they usually go to the floor below, which is the morgue," Lonker said.

The 61-year-old Conshohocken woman, who is a local actress, was on her way to a rehearsal at the Old Academy Theater in East Falls when the crash happened.

Lonker says she was making a right-hand turn to cross the tracks. She was on the rails when the warning lights began flashing.

"Just as I made the turn, the light came on, the bar came down, I didn't realize the bar behind me was also down, so I tried just to back up and the train was just a-coming," explained Lonker.

Her compact car was slammed by the train, which was traveling at 60 miles per hour. More than 200 passengers were on-board.

Lonker's car was sent airborne and landed on its roof. But Lonker doesn't remember any of that.

She was unconscious by then.

"When I woke up, I guess I realized what happened and that's when I started praying, really praying," she said.

Lonker was taken to Temple University Hospital with seven broken ribs and a fractured pelvis.

She can only shake her head in disbelief as she watches our video of her rescue, for the first time.

"Oh my God," she finally says.

At one point in this near-death drama, Lonker has a vague recollection.

"I was on the stretcher and apparently I heard applause from people," said the long-time actress. "And so being a ham, I was waving."

When asked what touches her heart after seeing the video, she said, "I am profoundly blessed just to be alive and to really value life, it's amazing."

Lonker has personally thanked the emergency people who came to her rescue. She calls them her fire angels.

And Lonker says she is grateful to be able to continue her passion of acting at the Old Academy Theater.

Reported By: Susan Barnett, CBS 3

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