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Monroe Co. man dies trying to save friends from train

A man saw his friend's car stuck on a train track and tried to save them, but all three ultimately died.

MONROE COUNTY, Ga. — In 2020, a tornado hit Monroe County, GA, ripping apart homes. One of those homes belonged to Chris Burkett. Somehow, he survived, after being pinned down by debris. 

"I just figured this ain't the way I'm gonna die and good Lord above me it wasn't," Burkett said at the time. 

The 47-year-old, according to his long-time friend Zeke Harvey, trusted in God. 

"He was a faithful man," Harvey said on Thursday over the phone. "He would do anything for anyone. Would lay his life down for the people that he loved."

And that's exactly what Burkett would do more than a year after 11Alive first talked to him. 

On Wednesday, November 10, 2021, Burkett saw his friend's car stalled on a train track and tried to save the two women inside, who he knew and loved. Unfortunately, Burkett, 93-year-old Shirley Treadwell and her caregiver, 66-year-old Debra Ruth Hall, didn't make it

"I can't think of a more honorable way to die than to die trying to save somebody," Harvey said, reflecting on his friend's actions. 

Dozens of comments under the news shared on Monroe County Sheriff's Office Facebook page, called Burkett a hero and called Treadwell and Hall faithful women who were loved by their community.  

For Immediate Release At approximately 6:20pm this evening, a passenger vehicle (Ford Flex) was struck by a train at a...

Posted by Monroe County Sheriff's Office, Georgia on Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Monroe County commissioner Eddie Rowland knew all the victims, telling WMAZ's Taelore Hicks they all will be missed. 

“She always had a smile on her face and we were just happy to see her, she always seemed happy wherever she was at," Rowland said of Treadwell. 

He said their deaths were proof that life is precious and fragile, adding "it reminds us that there is no promise of tomorrow.”

This is how to remember Chris Burkett…

Posted by Lin Chambers on Wednesday, November 10, 2021

However, there was a promise of tomorrow when Burkett survived the tornado; a tomorrow where he would turn an act of survival into an eventual act of heroism.

“That’s just the way he was," Harvey said. “Good, hard-working, very honest guy and what you see is what you get.

Investigators continue to work to find out why and how the car got stuck on the train track. 

Monroe County Coroner Joey Proctor told WMAZ he hasn't seen anything like that happen in the area.

"To have this many fatalities in one accident is very rare. Occasionally, we will have a motor vehicle accident where we will have three or four victims, but cars vs. trains are few and far between, thank goodness." Proctor said. "We certainly have to love each other and laugh with each other each and every single day, because we don't know what's going to happen the next day."