(Monument, Colorado – August 11, 2012)
An accidental misstep may have cost, or at least severely threatened, the potential college scholarship or professional career of a high school golf team captain in Monument, CO early Saturday morning.
Luke Hiser, 17, a senior and co-captain of the Palmer Ridge High School golf team, was struck by a Burlington Northern Santa Fe freight train traveling on Union Pacific Railroad tracks as he left an “end of summer” teen dance at a trackside venue at about 1:00 A.M. Saturday. The barn where the dance was held is owned by former Monument Mayor Si Sibell, and is a popular location for teenage and other parties. The dance was a benefit for the Aurora, CO theater shooting victims. No alcohol was being served there, but speculation was that some may have obtained such elsewhere.
The victim, who was found beside the tracks, was conscious during the entire ordeal, and can be heard screaming in pain on the 911 tape recorded when his friends found him. He was transported to Penrose Hospital in Colorado Springs, CO, where he went through surgery and was still listed in fair condition Monday afternoon, but by the following Saturday had been upgraded to “good” status. Although law enforcement authorities would give neither name nor condition of the youth, a friend confirmed that it was Hiser who was injured and that he had lost both legs in the accident. There is no fence or any other type of protective barrier between the barn property and the railroad tracks. The train crew obviously never saw the victim, as they continued on their way, unaware of any problem until stopped by the BNSF dispatcher who had been contacted by local law enforcement.
Hiser was found by two of his classmates, Ben Efram, who made the 911 call, and Alex Turner, both of whom assisted the victim as the 911 operator gave them instructions. Both were shocked when they realized they knew the victim. “I’ve known him (Hiser) since the first grade…it’s just shocking to know it happened to someone you’ve known all your life,” related Efram.
“His foot is completely gone,” Efram told the 911 operator, reporting also that the two responders were trying to keep the victim awake as he seemingly went in and out of consciousness.
The finding of a human foot by a railroad employee days after the tragedy was treated as an unrelated incident by both railroad and police authorities, audaciously acting as though the finding of the young man’s foot and his tragic accident were of casual importance.
Luke’s younger brother, Alex, is also a member of the high school golf team, whose coach, Paul Gagnon, said the team had an emotional meeting Sunday morning during which they decided to participate in a regularly-scheduled golf tournament Tuesday.
According to the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, the victim was found near the Mitchell Road/Front Street area. As many as 28 trains, including both UP and BNSF railroads, cross there daily at speeds as high as 45 mph.
Responding to the tragedy were the EPCSO, Monument Police Dept. and the Tri Lakes-Monument Fire Dept.