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Train accident victim identified

By Staff | Jan 26, 2010

22 year-old Corbyn Whalen has been identified by officials as the victim of Monday morning's fatal pedestrian-train accident at the at-grade crossing on East German Street.

The victim of Monday morning’s pedestrian-train accident has been identified by the Jefferson County Medical Examiner as 22-year-old Harpers Ferry resident and Jefferson County native Corbyn Whalen. Whalen was pronounced dead at the scene after being struck by a train as he attempted to cross the railroad tracks at the at-grade crossing on East German Street in Shepherdstown early Monday morning, officials said.

Whalen had deep roots in the area. He was a graduate of Jefferson High School and recently became a father. Friends say he was excited about raising his daughter with her mother.

Online, a public Facebook page entitled In Memory of Corbyn Whalen has been set up for friends and family of Whalen to express their condolences and share stories of his life. In under 24 hours, the group grew to include over 560 members. Reading through the posts, one gets the impression that Whalen was admired for his sense of humor and good nature.

Shepherdstown Police Sgt. David Ransom said Whalen was struck as he tried to beat a northbound train across the tracks, which are owned and operated by the Norfolk Southern Railway Co.

Emergency units were notified of the incident around 2:39 a.m. by the engineers on the train, police and railroad officials said. Responding to the scene were units from the Shepherdstown Police Department, the Shepherdstown Volunteer Fire Department, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, Shepherd University Police Department and the Harpers Ferry Police Department.

Corbyn Whalen relaxes with his daughter Mia Donlon. Photo courtesy of Meredith Donlon.

A Shepherdstown Chronicle reporter who lives near the scene of the incident witnessed first responders as they discovered the body. It was found lying in the gravel track bed on the west side of the railroad, north of German Street, near a green chain-link fence on the property of the Shepherdstown train station. Police reports indicate the crossing gates were functioning at the time of the accident, but local law enforcement officials had not yet interviewed the engineer of the train as of 10 a.m. Monday.

Upon discovering the body, officials cordoned off the area and began their investigation into the incident. They faced heavy rains as they conducted their investigation, forcing them to set up a tarp over the scene to keep dry. By 3:45 a.m., the train, which had been stopped, departed and headed north. At 4:46 a.m., the body was removed from the scene and transported to the morgue at Jefferson Memorial Hospital.

The accident remains under investigation by the Shepherdstown Police Department and the Norfolk Southern Police Department.

According to Norfolk Southern spokesman Robin Chapman, the engineers aboard the train during the accident continued on to Hagerstown, Md., where they were interviewed by railway police at Norfolk Southern’s Hagerstown offices.

“It’s a tragedy … and our sympathies go out to the family,” Chapman said in a telephone interview Monday morning.

He urged the public to heed rail signals at crossings.

“People need to be alert; trains can come at any time,” Chapman said.