What to do when you run over two women

Posted by Fred Frailey
on Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Darwin Award, as you know, is bestowed by us on people whose behavior around trains is simply suicidal. Charles Darwin hypothesized that species become stronger by ridding themselves of their weaker (or dumber) elements. This leads us to today’s lesson in life.

On July 10, an Indiana Rail Road unit coal train, 100 cars loaded, began crossing a long bridge, the Shuffle Creek trestle, near Bloomington, Ind. Its engineer discovered two people, 30-something women, in its midsection. There is no pathway on this bridge, which was 80 some feet over the water and ground.

The train’s forward-looking camera told it all. The women frantically ran. One quickly lay down between the rails. The other ran forward a few steps, stumbled, almost fell off the bridge, and just as the train came to her also fell face-forward between the rails.

There is, at most, 11 inches of clearance, and an overweight person would have been ground to bits. A piece of clothing caught by the train would be a death sentence, too. But when the train stopped above the two women, both were unhurt. They got up from under the train and ran away. Someone noted the license plate number of the car they sped away in.

INRD not only went to police with its story, but also to the news media. “This was an outrageous case of trespass and I want to make an issue of it,” Tom Hoback, the railroad’s president, told me. “Our engineer may never get over the trauma of running over two girls.”

Hoback sent Eric Powell, a cool, media-savvy spokesman for the railroad, to TV stations with the footage from the locomotive camera. And the press ate it up. Eric was featured today on Indianapolis TV stations (and on NBC Nightly News) explaining the folly of what these women did attempting to cross that long bridge. He provided a sobering number: Last year, 908 trespassers were killed by trains. And he said don’t be a fool and become one of them.

It's a powerful message. A small railroad dominated the news media in its state with this incident, and the event was featured on at least two network news programs. Chilling video underlined a strong message: Don’t be dumb. I invite every other railroad in the U.S. to view this footage and go to the media with their own stories when incidents like this happen. Don't let your lawyers bottle you up and make you remain silent. Scream and shout. These deaths are all preventable. Even dumb people can be educated. — Fred W. Frailey

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