Railroad safety is for everyone, not just drivers. Pedestrians who choose to walk or play around railroad tracks are trespassing on private property and could be fined, seriously injured or killed.
Two witnesses said that at about 8:30 p.m. they saw three teens walking on the train tracks more than 30 feet above the Papillion Creek in Nebraska. Five minutes later, the teens were running after realizing a train was heading their way. The teens ran toward the train which, according to police, the teens thought was the closest exit. One of the teens was able to jump to safety; he was not injured. The other two were farther back on the tracks. In what appears a split second decision, one of them pushed the other off the track, saving his life. The former was struck by the train; he was pronounced dead at the scene. His friend was taken to a local hospital in serious but stable condition. La Vista police will be reviewing video from the train’s camera.
Police said the area is often visited by teens who gather to relax and look at the waterfall and graffiti. They also said the waterfall area has also been known for minors in possession (MIP) situations. The day after the incident, police found beer cans, water bottles and a used fire pit among other items on the path leading up to the area of the accident.
This tragedy is a reminder of the dangers of trespassing on train tracks. About every three hours, a person or vehicle is hit by a train in the United States, according to Operation Lifesaver. Despite the danger, there has been a growing number of people posing for photos on them; even professional photographers have taken clients to train tracks for wedding and graduation photos.
Andy Williams, spokesman for BNSF Railway said the railroad intends to work with police to find a better solution to prevent people from climbing on the tracks and to be more vigilant in enforcing laws prohibiting pedestrians from walking on or crossing tracks. Additionally, Operation Lifesaver plans to reach out to area high schools to talk to students about the dangers of being on railroad tracks and trestles, according to Carol Daley, Nebraska’s executive director for the organization.
As part of their mission to reduce deaths and injuries around tracks and trains, Operation Lifesaver offers safety tips for pedestrians.
- The only safe place to cross is at a designated public crossing with either a cross buck, flashing red lights or a gate. If you cross at any other place, you are trespassing and can be ticketed or fined.
- Railroad tracks and trestles are private property. Never walk on tracks; it is illegal to trespass and highly dangerous.
- Do not cross the tracks immediately after a train passes. A second train might be blocked by the first. Trains can come from either direction. Wait until you can see clearly around the first train in both directions.
- Flashing red lights indicate a train is approaching from either direction. Never walk around or behind lowered gates at a crossing, and DO NOT cross the tracks until the lights have stopped flashing and it’s safe to do so.
- Do not hunt, fish or bungee jump from railroad trestles. Trestles are not meant to be sidewalks or pedestrian bridges!
- Do not attempt to hop aboard railroad equipment at any time. A slip of the foot can cost you a limb or your life.
- Be aware trains do not follow set schedules. Any Time is Train Time!
- Today’s trains are quieter than ever, so people can’t always hear one coming.
- Any approaching train is always closer and moving faster than you think.
- Stay alert around railroad tracks. No texting, headphones or other distractions that would prevent you from hearing an approaching train; never mix rails and recreation.
To learn more about railway safety visit the Operation Lifesaver website at oli.org.
Mark Bello is the CEO and General Counsel of Lawsuit Financial Corporation, a pro-justice lawsuit funding company.
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series. Mark Bello is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.