Randy Pennington and his family from Grayson County are accustomed to seeing the steep rise where the train line crosses Black Rock Drive, a farm road in Leitchfield, Kentucky. After all, his house and auto shop are both very nearby. The family’s heart is now being broken by the scene, though.
“Yeah, I live there, so we see it every day now,” Pennington said. “I have to come here every day to work. It’s going to be difficult.” Pennington was in his store Friday afternoon when he heard the crash. As he walked outside, he saw a cloud of smoke followed by a car that had been hit by a passing train. “It happened so fast, I really don’t know what happened,” he said. “We saw it was a car. Then I saw it was my mother-in-law.”
Pennington said his mother-in-law, Phyllis Minton, was in the broken car. The 63-year-old mother and grandmother were unresponsive, he said. Minton was pronounced dead at 4:45 p.m., emergency officials said. “It’s hard to believe that this happened,” he said. “It’s hard to believe it’s her. It’s hard to believe she won’t wake up.”
Minton’s family said she has taught math at Grayson County High School for 25 years and is a devout Catholic. According to Pennington, she had even been listening to gospel music at the time of the accident, which she said was still playing when they found her in the car.
But most of all, Minton’s family is her world. Her family said she held a special place in their hearts for their grandchildren.
“She meant so much more to people than she thought,” he said.
Pennington said Minton was driving from school to his house to deliver things and then the family went on vacation when she was hit by a train. He called on security to look at sections of Black Rock Drive and asked them to install gates, lights and alarms at the intersection to make sure another family didn’t suffer the nightmare they now live in.
“We can’t get her back. That’s not going to change,” he said. “But I think that’s a small price to pay for [security measures].”
But even with these changes, Pennington knew the space would never be the same.
“Every time you hear a train horn now, it’s different,” he said.
Grayson County High School Principal Josh Baldwin wrote in a statement: “Our hearts are heavy with the sudden and tragic passing of our long-time colleague and friend Phyllis Minton. Her passion for math and children is a blessing to many. Life has had a very real impact. While her absence will be deeply felt in our schools and community, her impact will linger.”
Minton’s daughter Kim Pennington said she spoke with school officials about establishing scholarships on her mother’s behalf. While details are still being worked out, she encourages donations to scholarship funds rather than flowers.
According to Minton’s daughter, Wednesday’s Mass will be held at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church at 11 a.m. local time, followed by a memorial dinner at St. Joseph’s Parish.
In her memory, Phyllis Minton’s family set up a grant for a cause she loved so much: education.