(St. Paul, Minnesota – August 15, 2013)
The life of a young, nine-year-old boy changed forever Thursday evening at about 6:00 P.M. when both of his feet were severed after he unsuccessfully attempted to climb aboard a passing Canadian Pacific freight train traveling on Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad tracks near Farrington Street and Ivy Avenue in the North End neighborhood of St. Paul, MN.
The first adult on the tragic scene Thursday was nearby resident Joe Kubiszewski, who was walking his dog in the neighborhood when two children rode their bikes up to him and implored him to call 911. Unfortunately, Kubiszewski did not have his mobile phone with him and so, instead, ran to where the two youngsters directed him. Entirely unprepared for what he would see as he ran down the well-worn, obviously publicly-frequented path to a clearing in the underbrush along the BNSF railroad tracks, past virtually unintelligible “no trespassing” signs, obscured by weeds, Kubiszewski emerged to see what he described to St. Paul Pioneer-Press Reporter Richard Chin as “a gruesome sight.” He found the boy, Marshawn Farr-Robinson, lying on his stomach as he painfully crawled, minus his feet, from where he had lost them beneath the wheels of a passing train. Kubiszewski said he was amazed by how calm the young victim was as he attempted to aid him without affecting the child through his own apprehension.
Farr-Robinson, who also lives nearby and was recognized by his respondent as “just the nicest kid,” who had “cut our grass once or twice,” was lying about 10 yards beyond the tracks, and begged his rescuer to retrieve his shoes, which he pointed out as being about 30 yards down the tracks. And, in fact, that was where the second adult responder, Dave Thornton, another neighborhood resident, found them – with the youngster’s severed feet still inside. While Thornton, who had pedaled to the area on his bicycle after his 13-year-old son told him he had seen the victim making several attempts to jump aboard the moving train before obviously falling beneath its wheels, had the presence of mind to take off his shirt and gently gather the severed appendages and shoes into a protective packet, one of the victim’s friends who first sought Kubiaszewski’s help arrived with a cellphone, which Joe used to call 9-11. While he was being given instructions on emergency care for the youngster, more responders, including St. Paul Police, arrived.
Responders remarked on how courageous and calm, given the serious nature of his injuries, the young victim was, especially in refraining from crying and showing most concern for how his mother and family would take the tragic event. Jane Thornton, 15, accompanied her father in responding to offer what help she could, saying “I kept asking him what his name was, what his birthday was,” as she attempted to calm the youngster by staying with him and holding his hand. “He answered everything. I was amazed at how alert he was.”
“This is a pretty sad story,” remarked Amanda McCulloch, with whose children the victim was a playmate, being their next-door neighbor on Farrington Street. “He’s just a typical nine-year-old boy.”
“We’ve had a lot of big feelings at our house today, just knowing that the life of a neighbor and a playmate has changed permanently,” McCulloch added. “In the end, you know that kids are kids. They’re going to take some of those risks sometimes whether it’s appropriate to do so or not.”
Another neighbor, Barb Evertz, 56, a decade-long resident of the neighborhood, said that the practice of people using the tracks for short cuts and a playground was all too common. “It’s an ongoing thing,” she concluded, suggesting that “perhaps the tracks need to be fenced off.”
Meanwhile, the nine-year-old victim had been transported to Gillette Children’s Hospital in St. Paul, where, at the family’s request, officials were staying tight-lipped regarding his condition or prognosis for recovery. However, by Saturday, the victim’s mother, Kimberly Farr, told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that her son’s condition had stabilized, that he was “doing wonderfully for the situation, and that “God has been good” in helping the family cope with the tragic event. A spokesperson for Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare confirmed that Farr-Robinson was in fair condition Saturday.