Tragedy struck Monday evening as Shepherdstown police officers were dispatched for a report of a pedestrian struck by a train. Upon arrival at the scene, law enforcement officers found a female victim who was pronounced dead at the scene. The woman has been identified as 50-year-old Patricia Bowers-Rayle, of Kentucky.
The initial call that came in Monday evening indicated that there may have been two pedestrians involved; however, Police Chief David Ransom has shared that no evidence of a second person has surfaced yet.
"From all the information that we've received, there was a second person there at the time of the incident and I'm following up on that. ... Initially, there was some confusion, because the call did come in as two people being struck," said Ransom. "We found the first person, but were unable to find the second person after searching on foot and everything else and even having Trooper 3 from Maryland come down to assist in the search as well."
Ransom said he is following up on leads regarding the second individual.
A press release issued by the Shepherdstown Police Department stated that Bowers-Rayle was found along the tracks between German Street and Washington Street. She had apparently been in the Shepherdstown area visiting a family member, the release said.
Officers from the Shepherd University Police Department, the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, the West Virginia State Police and the Shepherdstown Police Department, along with members of the Shepherdstown Volunteer Fire Department, responded to the scene. Norfolk Southern Police and the Jefferson County Ambulance Authority also assisted. In addition, a Maryland State Police helicopter was called to the scene to check the area for the alleged second person, but no one was found.
Investigators are following up with information about the person that may have been in the area at the time of the incident, the release said. At this time, foul play is not suspected but alcohol may have been a contributing factor in this incident.
Ransom said that this is the second fatal train accident he has seen in his eight years working for the town's police. He shared that while it is often hard to understand how someone can be hit by a train, it can happen easier than one thinks.
"The trains and the cars themselves actually are wider than the tracks. Even if you are walking beside the tracks, you are still vulnerable to being hit, even when you think you are a safe distance away," Ransom said. "A lot of times people also misjudge the speed of the train, especially at nighttime. You see the light coming and you hear the horn, but you can't tell how fast that train is going."
Anyone having additional information about Monday's incident should contact the Shepherdstown Police Department at 304-876-6036 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.