PORTLAND -Two teenage girls who were injured last week when hit by a train near the Maine-New Hampshire border said Friday they remain upbeat about the future and confident that their close friendship will pull them both through.

“I feel surprisingly good about the whole thing. I’m not going to let this break me or change the way I live my life,” Rachel Brown, 14, told a news conference at Maine Medical Center. “I’m going to do the same thing I’ve always done and be the same person.”

Brown lost the toes of her right foot and Destiny Phaneuf, 13, lost part of her left leg below the knee when they were struck by a train on May 28. The two, who described themselves as inseparable friends, live in Lebanon and are eighth-graders at Noble Middle School.

Brown was discharged from the hospital Friday and Phaneuf was looking forward to returning home a week later. They said they were looking ahead to adapting to prosthetics and undergoing long periods of physical therapy.

They counted their blessings, noting that both had survived, neither suffered brain damage and they were poised to get on with their lives. Brown said she was looking forward to beginning her summer job at a waterpark in Portsmouth, N.H., at the end of this month.

“We’re going to work together and get through it and everything,” Phaneuf said. “We’re going to support each other.”

From their wheelchairs, the girls recalled how they spent the night of May 27 at a sleepover at Brown’s house, woke up too late for school and decided to skip classes and head for the train tracks at Three Mill Pond, a popular summer hangout.

They decided to lay down on the tracks so they wouldn’t be seen. Although initial reports indicated that the girls had been sunbathing, they said the weather was cold, they were fully clothed and being on the tracks felt good because of the sun’s heat captured by the metal.

“We got tired. We didn’t really mean to fall asleep,” Phaneuf said.

They said they didn’t hear the approach of the train or remember anything about the accident. Brown said the first thing she recalled was being awakened by a man who spoke to her as she lay in the trestle beneath the train.

Brown then remembered shouting to her friend, who was still asleep: “Destiny, you have to get up. You’re bleeding real badly.”

Brown said she was given painkillers, then placed in an ambulance and transported by helicopter to the Portland hospital.

The girls said they had gotten great support from friends and classmates and were trying to shrug off postings on the Internet that said they were stupid to sleep on the railroad tracks and suggested that they were on drugs. The girls said they were not under the influence and police said drugs or alcohol were not factors.

“The negative comments are not going to bring us down. We’re just happy to be alive,” Brown said.

Citizens Bank branches in the area were accepting donations to help defray the costs of the girls’ prostheses, adaptive equipment and ongoing medical expenses.

Phaneuf’s mother, Patricia Del Santo, expressed relief that both girls had survived, but said they have a long road to recovery.

“It makes two miracles for the same two best friends,” she said. “They’ll continue to work together and be best friends for life.”

AP-ES-06-06-08 1745EDT


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