Teenager one in a long line of train accident victims
A 19-year-old Ranson man joined a long list of individuals who have been injured or killed by trains in Jefferson County over the past several years.
Amadou Mounliom was hit by a freight train in the vicinity of West Fifth Avenue and McDonald Street at around 2 p.m. on July 13, according to the Ranson Police Department.
Mounliom was transported to Jefferson Medical Center, before being airlifted to Inova-Fairfax Hospital in Virginia, according to Ranson Police Lt. Todd Lutman. Both of Mounliom’s legs were severed in the accident, and he remains in the hospital as of Wednesday afternoon.
The victim was hit by a train traveling on the Northfolk-Southern Railroad line, Lutman said. The accident is under investigation by both Ranson Police Department and the Southern Railroad Police.
According to Ranson Police Capt. Robbie Roberts these accidents seem to be increasing in frequency.
“It seems like it’s one or two a year,” Roberts said.
Roberts said the occurrence of these types of accidents cannot be attributed to any single cause.
“Sometimes people are under the influence of some substance, sometimes they have earbuds in, or sometimes, they mean to commit suicide,” he said.
When asked what they thought the reasons behind the accidents on the tracks, both veteran officers with Ranson’s force agreed that many individuals use the tracks as a short-cut route to walk from one place to another, which often leads to tragedy.
The officers advised against individuals walking on or near the tracks.
However, Roberts said the railroad companies used to provide educational information under the heading of “Operation Life Saver” that the police department shared with county residents a program that has been discontinued.
Ranson has seen several accidents over the past few years, with many of those resulting in deaths. Roberts said most of the occurrences have been between Fifth or Sixth Avenues and 16th Avenue near Universal Forest Products, because the trains run along those lines every 15 to 20 minutes.
“The speed limit for the trains was lowered to 40 miles per hour due to the number of accidents. But even if they go that slow, they can’t stop on a dime,” Roberts said. “It can take a mile or more for a train to stop. It’s a very difficult thing for conductors of those trains.”
It’s a difficult thing for the officers responding as well.
“You develop a thick skin over the years,” Roberts said when asked how they, as officers and first responders, deal with these accidents.
“Nobody wants to see this,” Lutman said. “Sometimes people think we’re not serious enough about it, but it’s a defense mechanism to deal with it.”
Both officers stressed that people need to realize the train tracks are private property, and should not be seen as a public way to traverse the county. According to the officers, a train with the weight behind it, cannot stop, even if the conductor sees someone or something on the track ahead.
“It’s similar to a deer in front of your car,” Roberts said. “It comes out and you just can’t stop.”