(St. Paul, Minnesota – September 4, 2013)
Neither The Official Railway Guide nor the Pocket List of Railroad Officials list a category of railroad officers entitled “Chaplains”, but both do list officials called “Claims Agents” as well as Law Departments. Yet, during nine days of hospitalization a nine-year old boy, Marshawn Farr-Robinson, was visited at least three times, sometimes with a parent present and other times alone, by a representative of the Canadian Pacific Railway who identified himself as a “chaplain,” as the youngster recuperated at Gillette Chiildren’s Hospital in St. Paul, MN from a horrible accident with a CP train operating on Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad tracks near his home that cost him both of his feet August 15.
This unusual and highly questionable action was one of several interesting facts uncovered September 4 and 5 as Twin Cities (Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN) Fox TV affiliate KMSP-TV, Channel 9 investigators looked into the tragedy and the victim’s progress after returning home with what the TV station called “a life-altering injury”.
Revelation of the multiple visits by the chaplain, whom CP acknowledged having been sent by the railroad, and who was not a railroad employee, but rather, a worker for a consulting firm contracted by the railroad, was exposed as Fox took an in-depth look into the how and the why of the accident. According to the Fox investigation, the victim crawled 165 feet on his stomach through the heavily forested properties paralleling the tracks, navigating through thick brush, rusted railroad spikes, large rocks and discarded refuse to the yard of the nearest residence, where a number of neighbors converged to help the little boy.
Marshawn and his younger twin sisters were adopted several years ago by their mother’s cousin, Kim Farr, when the children’s biological mother could no longer care for them. His adoptive mother is disabled and can no longer work, so her full-time job has become caring for the children, especially Marshawn, who told Fox TV that not being able to walk or play represent the biggest challenges to him as he awaits the attachment of prosthetic feet, and he complains that “getting upstairs to the family’s only TV set to pass the hours is hard work.”
Fox 9 News called the area where the tragedy occurred an “unsanctioned playground, hidden from the prying eyes of parents by trees and brush,” adding that “The tracks slice through the neighborhood in a way that leaves most people going blocks out of their way if they don’t want to cross them on the well-worn footpaths.” The Fox report further said investigators spotted several well-traveled paths unmarked by signs” even though a BNSF spokesperson claimed that the railroad “posts no trespass signs where there are obvious signs of a problem.” Twin Cities Attorney Michael Bryant termed the railroad’s signage efforts to be “simply not adequate” in addressing the problem. “We know there are kids there. They knew the kids were there. When you go through a community with something that big, they have a responsibility to make sure people are safe as they pass through,” he added.
But the BNSF spokesperson countered to Fox 9 that, while it would be “impossible” to post signs along its entire railway system, the railroad is patrolling the stretch where Farr-Robinson was injured more often than before the tragedy occurred, and that BNSF sponsors hundreds of Operation Lifesaver programs to teach people – some in grade schools – to be careful around the tracks. No mention was made as to whether or when the railroad-sponsored program had been presented at the school Marshawn and his neighbor playmates attend. But Marshawn simplified the matter by telling Fox 9 “Hey, I’m a kid. I thought it (hopping a freight car) would be fun.”
Returning to the situation of the visits by the railroad-contracted chaplain, Kim Farr recalled that the man “said he was sorry about what happened and asked me my name.” She also remembered that the man asked a lot of questions. “He asked me what happened, did I know Marshawn played on the tracks, and do I know how he lost his legs.”
Farr also told Fox 9 that the chaplain returned and talked to Marshawn when he was alone in the room, but that soon thereafter a relative came to the room, interrupting the conversation, as it was feared the chaplain may have rather been gathering information for CP Rail. “He was down there to do a job,” surmised the boy’s adoptive mother.
Once again, Attorney Bryant criticized CP’s intent, telling Fox 9 News that “If he was just there to pray, that’s great. I hope everybody’s praying for that mom. But the reality is, when you’re asking the questions he’s asking, that should be a great concern”. He termed the entire scenario as “very questionable.”