(Houston, Texas December 13, 2016)
A 69-year-old special education teacher, returning home from classes at Houston, TX Kashmere High School was struck and killed by an Amtrak passenger train at the Union Pacific/Lockwood grade crossing Tuesday at about 1:00 P.M., CST. The incident took place near the northeast Houston intersection of Bennington Street and Lockwood Drive and adjacent to the school.
Johnnie Harris, 69, who had worked for the Houston Independent School District since 1991, the last 10 years at Kashmere HS, was struck by one of 16 Union Pacific, Amtrak, Burlington Northern Santa Fe and Kansas City Southern trains that pass there on an average day at a maximum allowable speed of 35 mph.
The four-lane Lockwood Drive has lights and gates for the single UPRR track that crosses diagonally, but, as noted by both Andrew Kragie and Karen Warren of The Houston Chronicle, The safety gates that come down to block vehicles from entering the rail crossing appear not to block the sidewalks at the intersection¦. Mrs. Harris had been either walking back and forth to her job or catching rides with co-workers as her own vehicle was undergoing repairs.
The tragedy terrified Kashmere 11th Grader Jeremiah Johnson, who witnessed the accident. He said he and others called out a warning to the victim to stop walking across the sidewalk that crosses the tracks, and saw her body flip as the train struck her.
The crossing is also across from Felix Cook Elementary School, and parents are critical of the need for either a pedestrian bridge over the tracks or crossing guards, as The area has heavy foot traffic, they told Houston KTRK-TV, Channel 13. Especially to have two schools and kids going to lunch, back and forth, said parent Bobbie Hayes. Its crazy. Its not safe!
Reactions from the tragedy demonstrated the effect Ms. Harris had on her family, friends, and entire community. Ms. Harris was a treasured member of the Kashmere family, said KHS Principal Nancy Blackwell, adding that Our thoughts and prayers go out to Ms. Harris family. She will be deeply missed. I dont know what to say, remarked Frank Harris, her husband of fifty years. Im at a loss for words. She loved her grandchildren, remarked neighbor Doris Cooks. She loved her children and she loved her husband, Cooks added.
KHS Junior student Johnson summed the loss of the beloved and respected teacher as a giving person, saying If you needed anything, she made sure to give it to you.