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Grayson County community mourns death of teacher, mother killed in train crash

Hearts are heavy in the Grayson County community after a longtime, beloved teacher was killed when a train ran into her car Friday.

LEITCHFIELD, Ky. (WHAS11) -- The part of Black Rock Drive, a small country road in Leitchfield, Kentucky, that slopes steeply upwards where a railroad track runs across it is a familiar sight for Randy Pennington and his family in Grayson County. After all, it's right outside his home and his auto shop. But now, the scene is one of heartbreak for the family.

"Yeah, I just live right there so we'll see it every day now," Pennington said. "I'll have to come to work here every day. That's going to be difficult."

Pennington was at his shop Friday afternoon when he heard the crash. He came outside to see a plume of smoke, and through it, a car hit by a passing train.

"It happened fast, didn't know really what happened," he said. "We see it's a car. And then I see it's my mother-in-law."

Pennington said his mother-in-law, Phyllis Minton, was inside the mangled car. He said the 63-year-old mother and grandmother was not responsive. Emergency officials said Minton was pronounced dead at 4:45 p.m.

"Just hard to believe it was happening," he said. "Hard to believe it was her. Hard to believe she wouldn't wake up."

Minton's family said she taught math at Grayson County High School for 25 years and was a devout Catholic. She had even been listening to Gospel music at the time of the crash, according to Pennington, who said the music was still playing when they found her inside the car.

But above all, Minton's family was her world. Her family said she had a special place in her heart for her grandchildren.

"She meant a lot more to people than she thought she did," he said.

Pennington said Minton was driving back from school to drop something off at his house before the family went on vacation when she was hit by the train. He is calling on safety officials to look at the stretch of Black Rock Drive, asking them to install a crossing gate, lights and warning bells to make sure another family does not suffer the nightmare they're now living.

"We can't get her back. Nothing's going to change that," he said. "But I think it's [the safety measures] a small price to pay."

But even if these changes come, Pennington knows this area will never be the same.

"And every time you hear the horn of the train now, it's going to be a little different than it used to be," he said.

In a statement, Grayson County High School principal Josh Baldwin wrote, "Our hearts are heavy from the sudden and tragic loss of our longtime colleague and friend, Phyllis Minton. Her passion for math and for kids had a very real impact on the lives of so many. While her absence will be keenly felt by our school and our community, her impact will live on.”

Minton's daughter, Kim Pennington, said she has been talking with school officials about establishing a scholarship in her mother's name. While the details are still being worked out, she is encouraging people to donate to the scholarship fund in lieu of flowers.

There will be a Wednesday mass at St. Joseph Catholic Church at 11 a.m. central time followed by a memorial dinner at St. Joseph Parish Hall, according to Minton's daughter.

The family of Phyllis Minton has started a scholarship in her memory to the cause she loved so much – education.

Make checks payable to:

Grayson County High School

340 Schoolhouse Road

Leitchfield, Kentucky 42754

In the memo field of your check, “Phyllis Minton Scholarship Account”

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