(Spartanburg County, South Carolina – January 24, 2013)
The too-often unpleasant side of being a county coroner was foisted upon Rusty Clevenger, Spartanburg County, SC coroner late Wednesday and early Thursday when his expertise was required twice for unrelated railroad deaths within only a few miles and 12 hours apart.
Ryan Andrew Greenwood, 18, of Lyman, SC was the first of the train-related fatalities Wednesday evening at about 5:30 P.M., when he was struck by a Norfolk Southern freight train near 904 East Poinsette Street in Greer, SC. The victim was walking in the same direction but ahead of the train on NS tracks when he was struck by the train and then pronounced dead at the scene after the coroner responded.
The Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office was assisted by Norfolk Southern Police in investigating the fatality in Greer.
Exactly 12 hours later, Clevenger was called to the scene of a second railroad fatality, this one occurring on Norfolk Southern tracks in Wellford, SC, where a motorist had mistaken the railroad ballast for a crossing at the intersection of Syphrit Road and Tucapau Road in Wellford, SC.
Richard Darrell West, Sr., was killed at 5:30 A.M. Thursday morning, as he was driving his pickup truck east on Tucapau Road and came to the T-Bone intersection with Syphrit Road, which directly parallels NS tracks with only a few feet of separation between the road and the railroad. The victim apparently thought the dark, inclined ballast embankment which angles up to the track was a grade crossing approach, and ran his truck onto the tracks where he was hit by the train.
The NS corridor through both Greer and Wellford accommodates 19 trains daily, including four Amtrak passenger operations, at a top allowable speed of 79 mph.
The second tragedy was investigated by officers from the South Carolina Highway Patrol, Lyman, SC Police Dept., Wellford, SC Police Dept. and Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office.