Train vs Person Investigation UPDATE
Posted on 10/15/2021
Date: 10/15/21
Case: 21-34056 Train vs Person Investigation UPDATE
Authority: Detective Lieutenant Tim Kemps

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office has concluded its investigation into the train vs person incident that occurred in the Village of Richfield on October 6th. The cause of death has been ruled an accident by the medical examiner’s office.

The investigation revealed that the 31-year old Village of Richfield man was out for a walk which was common for him. He was wearing high-quality headphones at the time of the accident and was walking on the railroad tracks east of Scenic Road between Lakeview Rd and Willow Creek Rd. There was a curve in the tracks just north of the location of the accident that reduced the amount of warning time the train was able to give. Sun glare at the time of the incident also reduced visibility. Investigators were able to determine through interviews and video footage that the victim was walking southbound on the tracks and never turned around before the train struck him. The engineer activated the emergency braking system as well as the train’s horn in an attempt to alert the victim before the collision, but did not receive any response from the victim. The train was traveling at 49mph before the brake activation. The speed limit in the area for trains is 50mph. In this situation, there was nothing more the train engineer could have done to prevent this accident.

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office in conjunction with the victim’s family wants the community to take away some valuable lessons from this tragedy.

Headphones can cause reduced awareness of one’s surroundings. 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. We ask that people be cognizant of their surroundings and use caution when utilizing headphones when around potential hazards.

Trespassing on railroad property poses a major threat to people and is illegal. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Railroad Administration, there are over 400 trespass fatalities a year nationally. The vast majority are preventable. Washington County Sheriff Martin Schulteis said, “Before this accident, I would have thought that there was no way a person would not know there was a train coming. I was down at the scene and observed a train come through and left with a whole new appreciation for how a tragedy like this could easily occur. 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. My thoughts and prayers go out to the family and I hope together we can warn the public of these dangers.”