(Portage, Indiana – August 7, 2018)
A 3-year-old boy who was described by his grandmother as a “train person” who “loves trains” died and his 2-year-old sister critically injured in a tragic incident on CSX railroad property near his home at the Woodland Village mobile home park. His home is directly adjacent to railroad tracks in the northwest Indiana city of Portage. The horrible tragedy occurred about 9:30 A.M., CDT Tuesday.
Parents and relatives believe the pair, Caleb Wilson, 3, and Ellie Wilson, 2, left their home, about four spaces from the tracks, and entered CSX property where, according to Northwest Indiana Times Reporter Joyce Russell, “The only separation between the (mobile home) park (and the railroad) is a steep, weed-filled embankment.” Those adults, including parents Kelsey Benson and Jacob Wilson, were searching for and were being assisted by Portage Police, for the children when the tragedy occurred.
First PPD officer on the scene was Laura Lightfoot, and it was she who found Caleb deceased and Ellie “crying, and with noticeable injuries.” Little Ellie was subsequently airlifted to the University of Chicago Medicine Corner’s Children’s Hospital in Chicago, where she was still in critical condition Wednesday.
There was no fencing in place where the residential area and railroad came together. Undoubtedly this would have prevented the children from entering the right of way and this tragedy could have been avoided. CSX and Norfolk Southern operate a daily average of 42 freight trains at a maximum allowable speed of 60 mph. through the double-track corridor that borders the Woodland Village MHP.
Sierra Gonzalez, the children’s aunt, and who lives in the neighborhood, told the NWI Times reporter that the children “were the sweetest things. They were full of joy.”
Norfolk Southern Public Relations Manager Jonathan Glass said that “A CSX train crew was operating a Norfolk Southern train on CSX tracks under a special operating agreement between the two railroads. Because it was a Norfolk Southern train, NS is assisting local law enforcement in their investigation. Any questions about the investigation should be directed to law enforcement officials in Portage.”
Portage Chief of Police Troy Williams lauded the teamwork demonstrated by police, fire and EMS personnel, adding that “This tragedy undeniably affected the first responders, as several were visibly shaken by what occurred, but worked through these emotions to provide every possible resource and effort throughout the entire incident.”