An East Ridge man who was killed during a train accident is being called a hero.

Justin McCary, 31, was able to save his 10-year-old daughter, whose foot was stuck in the tracks, before he was struck by a CSX train on Thursday afternoon.

The accident happened on railroad tracks adjacent to Martha Avenue in Chattanooga.


McCary's niece was there, too, and ran to safety. Mercedes Peters tells Channel 3 that she's still trying to process everything that happened, but finds comfort knowing her uncle saved his daughter's life.

"He would do anything for anyone, especially his daughter. And that proved that's the best way to go for him, for his kid," Peters said, laying a single rose on the side of the railroad tracks on Friday.

The uncle and niece were preparing to start their first day of work together at a local grocery store. Peters says they were out taking a walk with McCary's daughter, Haley, 10, before their shifts began.

"We heard the train coming. It started to come up. My uncle looked back. I just started screaming," she said.

As the train turned the corner, McCary noticed his daughter's foot stuck in the tracks, and ran after her to help.

"Picked her up in his arms, bracing her to his chest," Peters explained.

On the short stretch of tracks between curves, the train didn't have time to stop.

Peters watched, helplessly, from the ledge, as McCary dropped his daughter before the train's impact pushed him off the side of the bridge.

"All I could do was stand on the ledge and ask Justin if he could hear me," she said.

Peters called 911, keeping her young cousin, who shattered her pelvis, calm, until an ambulance arrived.

Peters said watching it all happen still doesn't feel real, but she finds peace knowing her uncle is a hero.

"I knew he did the right thing, being a good dad. That's how I'm handling it," she said. "I wouldn't want him to go any other way."

As McCary's daughter recovers in the hospital, but family members are trying to raise money for her medical costs.

To help, click here.