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Accident victim mourned

By Staff | Jan 29, 2010

Corbyn Whalen, Photo courtesy of Meredith Donlon

Family and friends of Corbyn Whalen have spent this week mourning the tragic passing of the 22-year-old father in private moments of pained anguish and public online memorials testifying to Whalen’s love for his daughter and his sense of humor, while others paid quiet respects at the site of the accident.

Whalen, a resident of Bakerton, died suddenly early Monday morning after being struck by a train on German Street. An ongoing investigation into the accident is being conducted by the Shepherdstown Police Department and the Norfolk Southern Police Department. Investigators are hoping to find Whalen’s cell phone, which has yet to turn up.

Corbyn Whalen is survived by his daughter Mia Rose Donlon, his parents, Michael and Mary Whalen, two siblings, sister Beatrix Whalen and brother Evan Whalen, and his paternal grandparents, Ray and Vivian Whalen.

Whalen was a 2005 graduate of Jefferson High School. He worked at the Clarion Hotel & Conference Center in Shepherdstown as a bartender.

Co-worker Mike Rankin remembers him as the hardest working bar-back at the Clarion. “He never had any guff with anyone, always smiling. Just a downright good dude,” Rankin said in a telephone interview on Tuesday.

Online, the memorial group In Memory of Corbyn Whalen has been set up on the social networking website Facebook. The group has grown to include more than 700 members since it was created on Monday afternoon. Friends and family members have used the site to remember Corbyn by uploading photographs, posting short eulogies and discussing his life with other mourners. Whalen was almost universally admired for his sense of humor and good character. Friends have related numerous accounts of Whalen selflessly helping others with challenges large and small.

Shepherdstown Police Sgt. David Ransom said Whalen was struck by a northbound Norfolk Southern freight train as he attempted to cross the gated at-grade rail crossing on East German Street.

Emergency workers 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 personnel 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.

Whalen’s body was found lying near 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.

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. 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.

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.

Friends will be received at the Melvin Strider Funeral Home in Charles Town on Monday, Feb. 1, 2010 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. A memorial service will be held there immediately afterward at 2 p.m. Crobyn Whalen will be interred at Edge Hill Cemetery in Charles Town.

In lieu of Flowers, the family requests memorial contributions be sent to Mary Whalen for Mia Rose Donlon, Bank of Charles Town, P.O. Box 906, Charles Town, W.Va., 25414.

– See full obituary in the print edition.