Victim was talking on his cell phone when hit by Amtrak passenger coach
An Amtrak passenger train struck and killed a 50-year-old Auburn man shortly after noon Wednesday as he was walking along the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad tracks between the 1200 and 1400 blocks of C Street Northwest.
As of late Wednesday the name of the man, described in initial reports only as Hispanic, had not yet been released pending notification of next of kin.
Auburn Police Sgt. Scott Near said the man and the train were both traveling north and that the man was talking on his cell phone at the time of the accident.
“The train conductor saw the subject talking on his cell phone and tried to alert him by sounding his horn,” Near said. “When the subject didn’t respond to the horn, the conductor applied the emergency brakes but was unable to stop.”
Gus Melonas, regional director of public affairs for BNSF in Seattle, said that the Portland-to-Seattle bound train was traveling at 79 miles per hour at the time of the accident.
The man’s body came to rest east of the tracks in a grassy area some 300 yards from where he was hit. The conductor placed the 911 call at 12:09 p.m. The line was closed for two hours.
“It doesn’t appear be a suicide because there is no crosswalk here,” Near said. “He was walking on the tracks talking on his cell phone, and probably did not hear the train from behind, and probably did not hear the sound of the horn coming up behind.”
Near added that initial investigation showed that the man had not been dragged under the train.
It is the seventh fatality incurred at non railroad crossings in Washington state in 2008. A 17-year-old girl, Angellina A. Rodriguez, was struck and killed by an Amtrak train April 21 as she walked across the tracks about north of James Street in Kent. Like the Auburn man, she, too, was talking on her cell phone when she was hit.
Melonas said there is a cautionary tale in Wednesday’s tragedy.
“The first rule of railroad emergency personnel is to expect movement of a train on a track at any time from any direction, and the public needs to be aware of this as well,” Melonas said. “Trespassing on railroad property is illegal and it is dangerous.”
Valley Regional Fire Authority Firefighters and King County Medic One responded to a 911 call.
Amtrak, BNSF and Auburn Police are conducting separate investigations.