Train's horn blared before man wearing headphones was hit on tracks, Wisconsin cops say

  • In US
  • 2021-10-15 22:06:37Z
  • By Kansas City Star

Before a 31-year-old died in what Wisconsin officials have called an accidental train vs. person collision, it was common for him to go on walks.

On his Oct. 6 walk, the Village of Richfield man was wearing "high-quality headphones" as he strolled along the railroad tracks in Washington County, according to a Facebook post from the county sheriff's office.

While on his walk, glare from the sun reduced visibility, the sheriff's office said. There was also a curve in the tracks just north of the man, reducing how much warning time an oncoming train engineer could give.

When the engineer noticed the man, the employee activated the train's emergency brakes and sounded the train's horn to try and catch the 31-year-old's attention, according to the Washington County Sheriff's Office.

But the victim did not respond.

Investigators verified through interviews and video footage that the man "never turned around before the train struck him," officials said.

The train was traveling at 49 mph before the engineer activated the brakes, which is 1 mph under the 50 mph speed limit.

"In this situation, there was nothing more the train engineer could have done to prevent this accident," the sheriff's office said.

Now, the sheriff's office - in partnership with the victim's family - want others to learn from this tragedy with hopes of preventing future collisions.

"Before this accident, I would have thought that there was no way a person would not know there was a train coming," Washington County Sheriff Martin Schulteis said. "I was down at the scene and observed a train come through and left there with a whole new appreciation for how a tragedy like this could easily occur."

First, the sheriff's office asks that people use caution when wearing headphones around any "potential hazards" and know that they can reduce your situational awareness.

"This is particularly true in many of the noise-canceling headphones that can prevent the user from noticing auditory clues of imminent danger by greatly reducing the ambient noise," the post said.

Second, the department used this as a way to remind people that trespassing on railroad property is both dangerous and illegal.

So far this year, the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Railroad Administration has reported 488 fatalities involving railroads. Last year, 752 deaths were reported.

"The reason we take trespassing on railroad property seriously within our agency and issue citations to violators is in hopes that we can prevent a life from being cut way too short and to prevent family and friends from having to endure such emotional pain," Schulteis said. "My thoughts and prayers go out to the family and I hope together we can warn the public of these dangers."

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