(Lebanon, Pennsylvania – March 13, 2015)
A 16-year-old high school student, with his life ahead of him, had his dreams cut short early Friday morning at about 6:42 A.M., EDT as he walked to his classes at Lebanon, PA High School and was struck and killed instantly by a 42-car Norfolk Southern freight train being powered by three locomotives and traveling from Allentown to Harrisburg, PA.
Antonio Hernandez was at or near the Seventh Street crossing of NS tracks and “It wasn’t uncommon for him to be there at that time,” according to Lebanon Chief of Police Daniel Wright. Lebanon High School is on South Eighth Street, but the NS tracks run directly behind the Lebanon Middle School and the district’s athletic stadium between Seventh and Eighth Streets, with the crossing within sight of the school complex.
The victim was transported to Good Samaritan Hospital, but was pronounced dead upon arrival.
The accident was the sixth since 2004 and the third death to occur at the Seventh Street crossing, which has lights and gates for vehicular traffic. All three deaths have been suffered by pedestrians.
Although NS spokesperson Dave Pidgeon said that the speed limit for the rail corridor through Lebanon is 50 mph, information published by the Federal Railroad Administration places the maximum speed at 25 mph. This may have been a community where the railroads have increased speeds due to track condition improvement.
Because Lebanon Fire Dept. crews were fighting a house fire at the 500 block of East Cumberland, mutual assistance response to the tragedy had to be provided by fire crews from Palmyra and Campbelltown, PA.
The mood at the high school Friday was understandably reserved according to Chris Danz, assistant to the supt. for human resources and secondary education. A makeshift memorial was set up near the crossing, and one visitor to the shrine was Nicholas Flores, also 16 and a classmate of the victim, of whom he said “He was a person you could talk to; he was very caring,” adding that “To see a kid, especially as young as him, go is so sad. It really bothers me and hurts me. I have my hopes and dreams, and I’m sure he did, too.”