Train strikes, kills pedestrian

Published 9:32 pm Monday, December 30, 2019

Police are continuing to investigate a Friday evening incident in which a train struck and killed a pedestrian.

The victim, Kerry L. Hawkins, 55, of Suffolk, died at the scene. City spokesman Tim Kelley stated that Hawkins had a bicycle with him at the time, but it’s unclear if Hawkins was riding the bicycle.

It happened shortly before 6:30 p.m. near the crossing at the intersection of Hall Avenue and East Washington Street, according to a city press release.

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Amtrak spokeswoman Kimberly Woods said there were 135 customers on the train, which was traveling to Norfolk from Boston, Mass. The train had stopped in Petersburg on the way. There were no reported injuries to customers or crew members.

It was the second deadly accident involving an evening Amtrak train at the same crossing in a little more than a year. On Oct. 25, 2018, Karl Alexander Hill, 61, was killed when the truck he was driving was struck by a train.

According to documents from the police investigation of that incident, Hill was driving a dump truck and positioned it across the railroad tracks while attempting to back up a trailer to deliver a piece of equipment.

A few seconds later, the warning system indicating the approach of a train activated. The gates came down onto the trailer Hill was pulling as the train approached, and witnesses said it appeared that Hill “froze” and was unable to move the truck completely, or get out, prior to the train striking the truck.

The train struck Hill’s truck 35 seconds after the warning system began to activate. The train was traveling 59 miles per hour in a 60 mph zone. During the investigation, a police officer determined that Hill would have been unable to see the train approaching from inside the truck due to the design of its interior, placement of its blind spots and the angle of approach.

Woods, the Amtrak spokeswoman, stated this week that Amtrak encourages everyone to exercise caution around railroad tracks and crossings and works with Operation Lifesaver Inc., a national railroad safety education organization, to communicate the dangers of grade crossings.

“Each year, about 2,000 people are killed or injured in grade crossing and trespassing incidents nationwide,” she stated. “It’s critical that the public fully understand the consequences of trespassing on railroad property and failure to obey grade crossings signs and signals. According to the Federal Railroad Administration, a person or vehicle comes into contact with a train every three hours.

“Pedestrians and drivers often do not realize how dangerous it is to walk on or near railroad tracks, or how long it takes the average train to stop,” she continued. “It can take a mile or more for a fully loaded freight train to come to a full stop, making it difficult for railroad engineers to avoid collisions in emergency situations.”