Firefighting

Youngwood PA Firefighter Killed in Search Apparently Confused by Two Trains

Amid a crisscross of railroad tracks in North Versailles, Youngwood fire Chief Lloyd Crago watched his search-and-rescue team run their dogs on a hunt for a missing woman on Saturday afternoon, reports TribLive.com.

About 5:45 p.m., Crago saw Edwin “Lance” Wentzel, 57, a 35-year veteran and his best friend, walking on a narrow roadway between two sets of railroad tracks.

“We knew trains were there; we had been in the area for a couple of hours looking. There were train tracks as far as you could see,” Crago said.

As a Norfolk Southern train headed toward Wentzel on one track, a second train on another track approached from behind him.

“I was at the command post, watching,” Crago said. “There was a whistle from the train behind him, and you could feel that whistle. Lance must have thought it was coming from the train in front of him, but it was the other one.”

“He moved over toward the other track and he was struck by the (train) behind him … the one that blew the whistle,” he said.

Wentzel died at the scene.

As condolences streamed in from fire departments across the country on Monday, Crago described the afternoon his “best friend of 30 years” died.

“It was nobody’s fault. It was just a terrible, tragic accident,” he said.

The Youngwood crew was helping in the search for Ruth Ann Mullennix, 55, of Wilmerding, who has been missing since March 17. Bloodhounds and a swift-water rescue crew found her coat and cellphone on Thursday. They returned on Saturday to Mullennix’s last known location.

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