Train fatality leaves unanswered questions

Salem man struck and killed in Redmond

By Rachael Scarborough King / The Bulletin
Published: July 12. 2007 5:00AM PST

REDMOND — A Salem man was killed early Wednesday morning after being hit by a train near Evergreen Avenue in downtown Redmond, according to a news release from the Redmond Police Department.

The incident occurred at about 2 a.m. Wednesday, when a southbound Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway train hit Lamarkus Dwayne Petite, 33, of Salem, on the tracks south of the Evergreen Avenue railroad crossing, the release said.

Law enforcement officials found Petite dead at the scene, according to the release. Redmond Police Capt. Gary DeKorte said that it is still unclear why Petite was on the tracks at the time.

“We just want to do the best we can to answer all of those unanswered questions, but at this point he’s the one mainly with the knowledge of where he was going and why,” DeKorte said. “It may be just as simple as someone going from a store or business that may have been open to where they were staying, taking a short cut — sometimes those darn short cuts aren’t short cuts, but at best it would all be speculation at this point.”

Walking on or crossing train tracks outside of a street crossing is a crime of first-degree criminal trespass, DeKorte said.

DeKorte added that he does not know if drugs or alcohol were involved in the incident, but an autopsy will be performed. Officials also do not know whether Petite was trying to cross the tracks or was stationary on them at the time he was hit.

The spot where the train struck Petite is not a particularly dangerous one, DeKorte said.

“It’s no different than any other spot on the tracks. When you come to a grade crossing, like a roadway, your crossing is level and any place on the tracks you have something of an embankment coming up to the track level and then down again,” he said. “But there was nothing more or less unusual at that spot — it was one of those being at the wrong place at the wrong time (events).”

Gus Melonas, a spokesman for BNSF Railway, told The Bulletin that the conductors of the train, which was going about 32 mph at the time, tried to stop when they saw Petite on the tracks. The train was pulling 23 loaded freight cars and 10 empty cars, and was headed from Vancouver, Wash., to Riverbank, Calif., he said.

“This is an unfortunate situation for everyone involved,” Melonas said. He added that this was the first time this year in Oregon that someone had been killed while “trespassing” on train tracks, although there have been nine such fatalities this year in Washington.

DeKorte said he can remember a handful of other accidents involving people being hit by trains in Redmond in the last five to 10 years. In June, a man was hit by a train in Bend near the intersection of the Bend Parkway and Hawthorne Avenue and suffered severe injuries, according to earlier Bulletin reports.

“They happen every so often — fortunately, not that often,” he said.

In Wednesday’s accident, the train was held and the railroad crossing at Evergreen Avenue was closed for about 5½ hours, according to the news release. Morning traffic was affected for several hours, DeKorte said, since the Evergreen crossing is a main route through Redmond.

Law enforcement officials are still investigating why Petite would have been on the train tracks at that time and are asking anyone who might have seen someone at the crossing to contact the Redmond Police Department at 504-3400.

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