Franklin firefighters make daring railroad bridge rescue

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FRANKLIN, Tenn. (WKRN) — The Franklin Fire Department trains for all types of incidents, but the rescue of two teenagers from a railroad bridge above the Harpeth River Monday was unique.

Officials told News 2 the teenagers were walking on the railroad tracks around 8:15 at night. One of them dropped a cell phone, and both went to retrieve it. They ended up in a metal cage under the tracks and above a concrete pier unable to climb out.

The pair used the phone to call their grandmother. She made the call to 911.

“Well, we got two 15-year-old girls. They were walking and dropped their phone. There is a cage under the railroad tracks that is over the Harpeth. They dropped it in there, and they cannot get out.”

911 call to Dispatch

The rescue was difficult on many levels, according to Battalion Chief Joseph Polenzani.

First it was dark. Second the bridge was approximately 400 yards from the nearest access point making it impossible to get big equipment and crews right to the scene.

Chief Polenzani said, “We weren’t given an exact location at first. So, we sent in two crews to check the railroad tracks in both directions.”

Once the girls were located, the fire department shifted all its attention to that location – behind homes near Daniels Drive.

The fire department put up a drone Tuesday and shared video with News 2. The video clearly demonstrated the difficulty and the danger rescue crews faced. The drone documents the narrow railroad bridge, the unsure footing and the 40 plus foot fall to a shallow rocky river below.

Bird’s eye view of railroad bridge where rescue took place. Courtesy: Franklin Fire Dept.

Chief Polenzani said normally they would swing over the side to get the girls. In this case, the girls are directly under the tracks so they had to improvise.

Firefighters put a tripod in the middle of the tracks. Then, several risk their own safety to secure the apparatus and lower a rope through the tracks to the ground below.

Then another firefighter used the rope and harness to move up to where the girls were stranded. He was able to strap them in their own harnesses and then lower them down – one at a time.

“The primary challenge on that was setting it up on the train tracks on the bridge. Typically, we set up on a flat surface like a roof top or the top of a hill,” said Chief Polenzani.

Marvin Cox lives near the railroad tressel where many of the crews got to the scene using his backyard.

“They were kinda scared, but they weren’t hurt,” Cox said when he saw the girls leaving.

“Their parents were very relieved to have them back. We were trying to keep them updated throughout the operation,” said Chief Polenzani.

Police said no charges were issued against the girls who were not harmed.

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