(Malakoff, Texas – June 26, 2014)
Summer vacation came to an early and tragic end for a 14-year-old Malakoff, TX high school student, enjoying his time off school with several of his friends Thursday afternoon at about 2:40 P.M., CDT when he was struck and killed by an 81-car westbound Union Pacific freight train as the group began to cross the unfenced, open UPRR rail line that runs through the middle of the Henderson County town.
The victim, identified as Harry Smith, whose home was just south of the tracks and who sometimes worked at an antique shop north of the tracks, was with a group as they approached the railroad tracks, but was the lone casualty, as the rest of the group saw the train and stopped to allow it to pass by. Dakota Suttle, 16, one of the group, told his mother, Kim Suttle, that the victim was “clipped on the leg” by the train as he tried to cross.
The accident occurred near the intersection of Main and Terry (FM 3441) Streets on railroad tracks that skirt the southern part of Malakoff’s downtown area.
Although some speculation was reported that the victim tried to beat the train, Union Pacific Spokeswoman Elizabeth Hutchinson told Staff Writer Faith Harper of the Tyler Morning Telegraph that “trains can be quiet for their size.” She added, in a statement to Tyler’s KLTV Channel Seven Reporter Marshall Stephens that “Our thoughts are definitely with the community, those impacted and our train crew.”
“Everybody’s just really shocked about it and upset because we’re all really close here,” Brittney Weaver, a friend and classmate of the victim, told KLTV’s Stephens. She added that the victim and his friends crossed over the railroad tracks every day. “You’d always see them walking around. They were always up at the skate park because that’s what they were really into completely.”
The former St. Louis Southwestern rail line carries a daily average of 20 UPRR trains at a maximum allowable speed of 60 mph. In 1984, a massive derailment occurred at an adjacent crossing in Malakoff when the driver of a large dump/trailer truck collided with a SLSW (Cotton Belt) train, killing the truck driver and tying up the community for days as wreckage affected the same route as Thursday’s tragedy.