(Wauwatosa, Wisconsin – February 27, 2012)
An 11-year-old sixth grader at Longfellow Middle School in the Milwaukee suburb of Wauwatosa, WI was killed on his way to school Monday morning about 7:24 A.M. at the intersection of North 68th Street and Canadian Pacific railroad tracks when he was hit by a 4,000 ton CP Chicago-bound freight train travelling at 35 mph in a train whistle-free quiet zone.
Wauwatosa fire and police agencies, which responded to the tragedy, and the Wauwatosa School District, confirmed that one of their students, identified as Joseph “Joey” Kramer, who lived only a quarter-mile from the railroad crossing, had been killed.
With temperatures at 25 degrees and snow on the ground, the boy was bundled against the cold and had his head down against the wind, with the hood of his jacket up, and was reportedly wearing ear buds. He was knocked over 90 feet down the tracks from the impact, which occurred just as he had crossed over the outside rail and was nearly clear of the train’s path.
Sadly, while Joey’s classmates struggled with their grief for their fallen classmate, CP officials kept bridging the mourning process to the trauma their train crew and engineer had suffered, saying that the engineer was a grandfather with grandchildren the age of the victim, and “was reportedly devastated by what happened.”
Even Wisconsin State Commissioner of Railroads Jeff Plale got involved, as he relayed reports from railroad officials and police to the news media that the victim had allegedly been wearing headphones. Plale later indicated the crossing of 68th Street would be studied for the possible installation of gates at the sidewalk to protect pedestrians.
Canadian Pacific authorities confirmed that the tragedy occurred in a Federal Railroad Administration-authorized “Quiet Zone”, where trains sound horns only in emergency, and further indicated the train’s horn was not sounded until it was clear that the victim had been struck by the train’s locomotive. In fact, because auto traffic was stopped for the train and blocking the view of the sidewalk, the train crew members did not even see the victim until he was on the tracks.
The 68th Street crossing of CP tracks has lights and gates for highway traffic, but has no pedestrian traffic protection for anyone on the sidewalk, which was the location of the victim. The youth was not killed instantly, but died from multiple blunt force trauma injuries after being transported to Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.
Upon learning the victim’s name and address, investigators and the news media descended upon Joey’s grief-stricken mother, barraging her with questions of whether her son had any hearing or vision problems, or if he suffered from depression or suicidal thoughts, none of which were true.