‘I heard screaming coming from the tracks’

Witness to Friday’s train accident at Topstone describes scene

Mikaela Dalessio was still awake on Friday night, Jan. 12, when she heard loud screams coming from the railroad tracks beside her Ridgefield home on Topstone Road.

“I was awake in my bedroom and I heard a girl screaming for help,” said Dalessio, 20. “I looked out my window and saw a car parked on the train tracks and flashing lights.

It was raining and foggy and very dark out. I started screaming for my mom to wake up and call 9-1-1.”

At that point, Dalessio said, she ran outside and screamed at the person in the vehicle to get out of the car, that a train was coming.

“It was so dark. I could see a light on in the car but couldn’t see anything beyond that,” she said. “The train got closer and I could hear its whistle.”

Dalessio said the car was facing north on the tracks, and the train was headed toward its back.

“I saw the train hit the car,” she said.

Dalessio said she found her way to the driver — who has been identified as Stephanie Triantafillou, 21, of Golf Lane in Ridgefield.

“She was already on the phone with the police and I brought her inside my house. We talked and waited for the police to show up,” Dalessio said. “She was very shaken up.”

The police came in and out of the house and Triantafillou was examined by an EMT, according to Dalessio.

“The police were outside my house for hours. They left by around 1 a.m.,” she said.

Dalessio and her mother, Lisa Kuller, have lived at the Old Cider Mill house since September 2017. The house is on the border between Ridgefield and Redding.

“It was very foggy and dark, so I couldn’t see more than two feet in front of my car,” said Triantafillou who was driving a Volkswagen Jetta. “The road was too skinny to be a two-way.”

Triantafillou was following GPS directions that told her to go in the direction of the train tracks.

“I didn’t know there was a train track until I was on it,” she said. “It was also very foggy and dark.”

She said she was driving from her house to a friend’s house in Danbury. “I was trying to cut through on back roads to avoid using the highway.”

Kuller said she strongly feels the Topstone train crossing should be closed.

“I don’t think it’s safe. It is a confusing, complicated intersection. There is just too much potential for human error, where if anything goes wrong — a distracted driver, bad weather — it’s a terrible accident waiting to happen.”

“My daughter thought she had witnessed someone getting killed today,” Kuller added.

“What if she had a few young kids strapped into the backseat of her car?” asked Nick Triantafillou, Stephanie’s father. “Making a wrong turn could have had a tragic ending.”

This is the second Metro-North train accident to take place at a Redding crossing in a month. On Tuesday, Dec. 5, at around 9:10 p.m., a train struck a vehicle at the Topstone crossing. No one was injured. That incident is still being investigated.

Many residents who live in the vicinity of the track have been complaining about how dangerous it is. One of them is Redding resident Kristin Mauck, who lives on Chalburn Road.

“If someone isn’t familiar with the area and they come upon the track, they may think that they are turning onto a road but they are actually just turning onto the track and can get stuck,” Mauck said. “This is still an ongoing, serious issue.”