(Pacific, Missouri – March 6, 2013)
Another pedestrian death on a railroad route near St. Louis with a past history of accidents has served to re-fire a feud between The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, in particular staff writer Todd Frankel, and the railroad industry in regard to what Frankel sees as a callous disregard for safety of pedestrians who utilize railroad tracks as the shortest route between two points.
Wednesday night, a Pacific, MO resident, Zachary Brady, 20, was killed at 8:45 P.M. as he walked beside Union Pacific tracks between his job at a local fast-food restaurant and his home near the tracks. Zachary was struck from behind by Amtrak’s “Missouri River Runner” train with 58 passengers on board. The train, traveling from Kansas City, MO to St. Louis, MO, was on 79 mph maximum speed track at the time of the tragedy.
Frankel had written a series of articles on railroad pedestrian accidents last year, and had only this week published an article skeptical of Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo’s terming 2012 as “the safest year in railroad history”, when most rail accident figures went down, but pedestrian deaths were 7.5% over the previous year.
Neither the writer nor the newspaper have won any popularity contests among railroad media relations representatives and departments, and the chagrin could be heard echoing as Frankel sought comment from Amtrak regarding the Pacific tragedy.
Amtrak Spokesman Marc Magliari was quick to declare the cause of the accident as “the trespasser obstructing the path of the train.” Magliari further clarified his remarks by saying “the man was trespassing when he ran into the path of our train.” Although agreeing that the incident was “tragic”, he added that the fatality “was not at a crossing. It was along the right-of-way owned by Union Pacific.”
Pacific Chief of Police Matt Manfell, who oversees law enforcement in the small community just 35 miles west of St. Louis, and which is bisected by two different railroad lines, observed that “People get used to the trains, and they wind up losing respect for them.”
Chief Manfell added that, like the victim, “many of the town’s 7,000 residents probably live within a stone’s throw of passing trains.”
The article chronicled several accidents in the same area before Brady’s death, mentioning a July, 2012 case where a 17-year-old bicyclist was injured when he was hit by a train at Pacific’s 4th Street crossing, the death of a 15-year-old girl, one of a group of four who ran across railroad tracks in Pacific in November, 2008, as the train approached, and the October, 2005 death of a 44-year-old driver who died when his vehicle was struck by a train at another Pacific crossing.