(Smithfield, North Carolina – January 2, 2015)
Two teenaged sophomore students from Smithfield-Selma High School in Smithfield, NC were killed at about 1:55 P.M., EST Friday afternoon as one tried to pull the other out of harm’s way on CSX Railroad tracks as Amtrak’s “Palmetto” passenger train with 94 passengers on board the Savannah, GA-to-New York City train approached, but both were struck by the fast train.
Police identified the victims as Alan Peedin, 18, and Robert Naughton, 17, and said they were walking along CSX tracks which carry 21 trains, including Amtrak movements, through the Johnston County community daily at top allowable speeds of 70 mph. A woman identified only as “Christina with CSX Railroad” called 911 to report the occurrence, saying that it appeared one of the boys was trying to pull the other away from the tracks. Although there were reports that the two were wearing headphones, such action as “Christina” described would indicate they were aware of and tried to escape from the rapidly advancing train as it bore down upon them.
The tragedy occurred near the street intersection of North Brightleaf Boulevard, which parallels CS tracks about a block distant, and Shelter Way, which dead-ends into the railroad corridor near downtown.
One of the investigators into the accident, Smithfield Police Lt. R.K. Powell told a reporter from ABC Channel 11 that “It’s devastating. I have children of my own and it’s something I don’t like to do. It’s very difficult.”
Later, Lt. Powell told News-Observer reporter Nash Dunn that the investigation into the cause of the accident could take weeks. “When it comes to this, we don’t try to make any rushed decisions. We look at it as we do any crime and work all the angles to get the answers the parents need.”
An observer, Christian Vasquez, who lives on Pinecrest Street, indicated that pedestrian traffic along the CSX rail corridor was not at all unusual, saying that “People walk back there (along the railroad tracks) all the time. It’s pretty common.”
“These students were part of the Spartan family, and their presence will be missed,” said Smithfield-Selma High School Principal Stephen Baker. “Losing part of your family is always difficult, and we are working with our students, staff and the students’ families to provide any assistance we can to help (them) through this difficult time.”