(Newport News, Virginia – October 16, 2012)
The announcement that doctors had been able to re-attach a 10-year-old boy’s leg, which was severed Sunday by a passing CSX freight train as he joined other children playing on the almost totally unguarded railroad tracks that pass through a heavily-populated part of Newport News, VA, have proven to be premature optimism, as the crushing nature of the wound made re-attachment surgery virtually impossible.
The youngster, now identified as Jahmee Harris of Hampton, VA, who, along with his family were visiting an aunt who lives near the railroad in Newport News, is currently listed in fair condition after having been transferred to a third hospital, The Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters in Norfolk, VA.
With the release Monday of the Sunday afternoon 911 tape of the conversation between eye-witness James Slater, who lives near the tracks in the Hilton Village area on Bellwood Road, and was calling police for at least the second time after children playing on the tracks and trains failed to heed his admonition to play elsewhere, has shocked many who were unaware of the repeated warnings that Slater had made to officials about the dangerous nature of the neighborhood children’s activities. Slater was on the phone with the 911 operator when the tragic injury occurred, and he can be heard saying that he was hearing screams and that a boy had lost his leg.
The taped conversation includes the cry of young Harris as he screams “I’m going to die” as Slater comes to his aid. The 911 operator offers Slater emergency first aid instruction and Slater asks other bystanders to bring the supplies needed for the boy’s care, but EMT’s arrive before the supplies can be brought to the scene.
As Slater attempted to comfort the young victim, Harris asked him to hold him and kept repeating “I don’t want to die,” as his rescuer reassured him that he would not die.
“I was always scared something bad was going to happen,” said Slater, who added that he had seen the children playing on the tracks and trains at least a week earlier, and had pled with them to refrain from their dangerous activities before calling 911 both Saturday and Sunday. Police responded to his earlier call, but the train had passed on and the children had left.
Slater told The Newport News Daily Press that the ordeal was “an image I’ll never be able to shake,” adding that “As horrific as this was, at least the kid didn’t die. You don’t get too many second chances when it comes to a train.