(Junction City, Oregon—September 8, 2012)
Tragedy struck at the same place on almost the same day for the second time in two years in Junction City, OR Saturday evening at about 8:30 P.M. when a 14-year-old eighth grader was killed by an Amtrak passenger train as he and two friends prayed and reminisced at a trackside memorial to a relative who was killed in a similar accident in August, 2010.
Julius Schmidt of Junction City, OR and two male companions were visiting the makeshift shrine set up to commemorate the death of Schmidt’s relative, John Muller, who was killed by an Amtrak train in 2010, when another Amtrak train approached them at 76 mph on Union Pacific Railroad tracks.
“They were there to pray and consider what happened to him (Muller),” explained Junction City Chief of Police Mark Chase.” Unfortunately, after that, they heard the train horn and decided to run out on the track. Two jumped off just before the train (could) hit them, and Julius did not make it.”
“Common sense says it’s not a good thing,” Chief Chase continued. “But we’ve all been boys before and done things as juveniles.”
As many friends and fellow students of Schmidt reeled in disbelief, another impromptu memorial was set up near the site Sunday.
“I was completely devastated,” said classmate Dylan Lynn. “It’s horrible!”
“He would always make me smile,” lamented Shania Wood. “He was always there for me. He was a really good friend.”
Junction City businessman Byron Knudtson’s business is directly in front of the accident scene. “It’s a big tragedy to have the kids taken like that,” he observed. “The whole town feels it.”
Schmidt’s death was actually the third such tragic pedestrian fatality at the site. Besides the August 10, 2010 accident that took his relative’s life, a 94-year-old woman using a walker to cross the tracks was killed by an Amtrak train on September 21, 2004.