msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 6/7/2011 2:07:24 PM ET 2011-06-07T18:07:24

A disoriented 81-year-old woman was rescued from her car just moments before it was smashed by a freight train.

Laurie Eldridge told The Corning Leader she was working on her flowerbed Monday evening when she spotted a car driving on the tracks near her home in Cameron, 70 miles south of Rochester.

Eldridge, who was barefoot, ran to the car when it got stuck and pulled the elderly woman out when she refused to leave the car as the train bore down on them.

"I think she was just frightened and confused," Eldridge said. "The car was still in drive. She thought her son was in the car, but there was nobody else in there. She wouldn’t unlock her doors. She kept yelling at me to go away."

Eldridge reached inside the car to unlock the door, then dragged the woman away just before a Norfolk Southern train going about 40 mph broadsided the car.

State police said the driver thought she was headed to a local mall.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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