(Richmond, Indiana – November 9, 2012)
What was supposed to be a night honoring all area college students turned into a horrible tragedy early Friday morning at about 1:13 A.M. when an eastbound Norfolk Southern freight train struck three students of Earlham College as they walked near the tracks that run through the popular Richmond Historic Depot entertainment district in Richmond, IN.
Therese Heymann, a 21-year-old senior from Burlingame, CA, was pronounce dead at the scene, while her companions, senior Graham Nissen and sophomore Lenore Edwards, were first rushed to Reid Hospital in Richmond, but were then flown to Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, OH due to the serious nature of their injuries.
All three victims were thrown to the south side of the track, which carries a daily average of 28 trains at top speeds of 60 mph through the middle of the eastern Indiana community, and Richmond Police found their personal items scattered across the area.
Asked if he knew how the three came to be struck by the train, Richmond Police Captain Bill Shake said “I don’t really know what they were doing.”
Earlham College Director of Media Relations Mark Blackmon described the tragedy as “almost unfathomable.”
A 1200-student, Quaker (Society of Friends) Church-affiliated college, Earlham had provided shuttle transportation for students from the college campus to the Depot District, which is near downtown Richmond, for the “College Night” get-together.
Attendees at the event, many of them Earlham students, approached police investigating the accident seeking information on who was hit and how, with many becoming highly emotional at the news that three of their fellow students had been involved. Earlham authorities announced all classes scheduled for Friday would be suspended, and that two locations on campus would be designated for places for students and other members of the community to gather to grieve for the victims.
The Richmond Fire Dept. and Earlham College Security forces joined with the Richmond Police Dept. in responding to the tragedy.