(Clay County, Florida – July 24, 2012)
The parents of a high school football star, killed by a CSX freight train as he and two friends fished from a CSX trestle across Black Creek in Clay County, FL in May, 2008, would probably far rather have their son back than the $2.7 million award they received late Tuesday by a jury which found CSX 60% at fault in the tragic accident.
Wesley Whiddon, jr was 17 and a star Fleming Island High School football linebacker when he was among a trio of youths trapped on the CSX railroad trestle as the train bore down upon them. Two of the teens jumped clear of the tracks, but Wesley hesitated, and was struck and killed by the train.
Video from the nose camera of the locomotive was played in court last week, but the most vivid testimony came from the lips of the CSX conductor of the train itself.
“I thought it took forever for that train to stop,” testified Davis Jones. “It seemed like it was never going to stop. And once it stopped, I got off the train and I ran back to see if I could help the boys, and the boys were really shook up back there,” he recalled. “I went up to check his (Whiddon’s) pulse and I realized he had died.”
The lawsuit had contended that, even though the train’s engineer saw the three boys 34 seconds before the impact, he never applied the brakes until after the victim was struck. The suit also charged that the train had an inoperable end-of-train monitoring device which should have restricted its speed to 30 mph, but instead was actually travelling at 45 mph.
The trestle had a “no trespassing” sign posted, and thus the jury found the victim 40% at fault in the tragedy, for which CSX expressed sincere condolences to the deceased’s family and friends.