CRESSON, Texas--The train crossing on busy Highway 377 in Cresson is notorious for close calls.
There are no rail line crossing gates, and a traffic light nearby frequently backs up traffic onto the tracks.
But Kelly Hill had safely navigated the crossing on his way commute to work for 11 years, until he pulled up Thursday morning.
"The warning lights were on, but people were crossing because they do these railcar switches," said Hill. "I stopped, looked both ways, never seen a train or heard a horn. Nothing, and then I seen that car coming."
A locomotive was backing up a car that Hill says he thought had already crossed. It also was dark and tough to see.
It struck the passenger side of his Jeep and started pushing the car down the tracks.
"I was thinking 'Am I gonna live through this?' Because most people involved in train wrecks don't walk away from it," said Hill.
Fortunately, the train operator was able to slam on the brakes quickly, and Hill says he was only pushed about 150 feet.
But with the SUV crushed, and a sudden wave of heat emerging from the engine, Hill knew he had to react.
"I took in the situation," he says. "I always carry a knife. I pulled it out, cut the seat belt loose, and at the top of the door it was pushed out about that far. And I was like, there is my way out."
The 54-year-old somehow managed to wiggle his way out of the wreckage and jump into a nearby filed.
Moments later, the car was engulfed in ten foot flames.
"It was about 20 seconds later and it was all fire," says Hill.
Another driver took cell phone video of the accident. The highway shut down for about two hours during the busy rush hour.
DPS troopers and emergency personnel were on scene scene within minutes, according to Hill, but miraculously he didn't suffer any injuries.
"It'll hit me all like a ton of bricks soon," he says. "But I'm okay right now."
The longtime Fort Worth resident turns 55 in a few days.
He credits his years of military service in the US Army for preparing him to act without hesitation.
"I'm thankful for God and my knife because they both saved my tail," he said.
Insurance is evaluating the accident, but in the meantime Kelly started a GoFundMe account to help with immediate expenses to get to work.
The train operator was uninjured.
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