(Chilhowie, Virginia – June 29, 2014)
A 52-year-old grandfather and his seven-year-old granddaughter and eight-year-old grandson were involved in a horrible railroad trestle tragedy early Sunday afternoon at about 2:00 P.M., EDT in the Pine Street area of Chilhowie, VA when they were trapped on a single-tracked Norfolk Southern Railway trestle over the South Fork Holston River by a westbound NS train, one of a daily average of 16 trains that cross the 200-foot-long bridge at a top allowable speed of 45 mph. The grandfather and granddaughter died when they tried to stand on the bridge’s edge and let the train pass by them, while the grandson lived when he slipped between the bridge ties and fell an estimated 25 to 30 feet above the river. They had all been fishing from the bridge span.
The boy, who was later found at his grandparents’ home after he hiked back from his near-deadly ordeal, was taken to Johnston Memorial Hospital in Abingdon, VA, where he was checked over and found to be uninjured prior to being released back to his surviving relatives. Since no one saw him after the tragedy, he was treated as missing and was the subject of a massive search by a force of law enforcement officers, who later found him at his relative’s home, extremely frightened but otherwise relatively unscathed. A fierce rainstorm that descended upon the scene after the accident hampered the search for some time. Smyth County Sheriff’s Office Major Mike Hounshell credited the work of three SCSO deputies, a Virginia State Trooper and Chilhowie firefighters in the successful search for the young survivor of the tragedy.
Major Hounshell also said the victims’ names would not be released until the extended family were notified of the situation.