(Grand Island, Nebraska – September 19, 2012)
A 42-year-old Grand Island, NE resident died a horrible death late Wednesday afternoon at about 5:15 P.M. on Union Pacific Railroad tracks at an undisclosed location east of the Broadwell Street crossing in Grand Island when he was hit, dragged for a considerable distance, and his body left mangled beneath the stopped westbound UPRR freight train.
Police officers on the scene would describe the victim only as “a white male, deceased”, and dozens of onlookers watched as the body lay beside the tracks, covered by a white sheet, as workers washed down the remnants of the gruesome scene with water hoses.
People observing the investigation and cleanup of the tragedy speculated about what happened, many of them recalling the tragic night of June 6, when a 14-year-old was hit and killed as he crossed the tracks at Third Street near Garfield, a location where there once was a crossing, but has been closed for nearly two decades. The site of the earlier tragedy is only six blocks distant from Wednesday’s event.
With school just out for the summer, Cody Christensen was with a group of friends around 10:40 P.M. on June 6 when the youths attempted to cross the tracks. Following at the end of the group, Cody stumbled on the rock ballast and fell on the tracks as a train approached from the east. The others made it across the tracks safely, but Cody died in his attempt.
One of Wednesday’s witnesses, Russell Waugh, offered his observation that “The problem is, in between the crossings, there’s this vast open space. I’ve crossed there several times myself, and I know kids cross there many a time. As an adult, you can see the trains coming from a long way away, and you know whether you can get across or not. A kid might not have that benefit of experience,” Waugh speculated.
With police refusing to comment, it was not disclosed as to whether Wednesday’s victim was attempting to cross the tracks or was walking along them when the train struck and killed him.
The multi-track corridor that passes through Grand Island accommodates nearly 60 UPRR trains daily at a maximum allowable speed of 60 mph.