(Forest Park, Georgia – October 20, 2017)
A 28-year-old mother of three children lost her leg while her one-year-old son lost an arm after all four were traversing under a stopped Norfolk Southern Railway train. The train suddenly moved, at a commonly and frequently-used, unfenced crossing spot about 3:10 P.M., EDT, Friday afternoon, near Hartsfield-Atlanta International Airport.
Kate Brown, who lived in an extended stay hotel with her husband and the couple’s three children, was walking the children home from a MARTA bus stop after one of her children arrived home from school. According to Clayton County Police, the four regularly took the same route home daily, but this time, a stopped freight train blocked their short cut across the tracks.
Mrs. Brown instructed her two older children to crawl beneath the train in a quadruple-track area, and she then followed them, carrying her young son. The end result was horrific, as both victims were taken to local hospitals, where it was revealed that the crushing injuries made reattachment of the severed limbs medically impossible.
Husband Lance Brown, who was at work with the family’s sole car, told WXIA-TV’s Tim Darnell that both his wife and son were facing additional surgeries. Lauren Foreman of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution said that the two victims were still in surgery at 9:45 P.M., Friday, and were listed in serious condition.
The Channel 11 reporter observed that “There is a steady stream of pedestrians each day using that cut-through to get to and from work, home, shops and restaurants,” adding that “Railroad police from Norfolk Southern said they patrol the stretch of track as much as they can, but haven’t been able to stop people from walking across the tracks there.”
Jonathan McLeroy told WXIA that “everyone he knows who works at the businesses and factories on one side of the tracks uses that short cut to walk across the tracks every day.”
Andrew Taylor, another nearby worker, said parked trains blocking the short cut don’t always stop people from crossing anyway. “They’ll cross through it, like between the cars.”
Jamal Bolton told Channel 11 that “A lot of people cross here. It’s easy access.”
Channel 11 noted that the nearest legal crossing is a half mile away from the shortcut, and using it would create a two-mile round trip which would make them late for work just going for lunch.
It has long been recognized that fencing with periodic pedestrian crossings either at grade or with an overpass dramatically reduces the number of pedestrian incidents. “As of late Friday afternoon,” reported WXIA’s Darnell, “11Alive News had not been able to reach the Norfolk Southern corporate spokesperson to see if there had been any plans to try to block that shortcut – perhaps with fencing – for safety reasons, or if there are plans to do so.”