Hearing Someone Die

DSC_0027I was off work Monday to go to an ultrasound appointment with my wife, so I missed the train delays that resulted in my usual MARC train getting to Washington’s Union Station around 2 hours late from what I heard. However, I did ride that train, MARC 517, Tuesday morning when it struck and killed someone walking along the tracks.

That train starts out at Perryville and makes every stop between there and Washington except for Bowie and Seabrook. It usually arrives in DC a few minutes after 8 a.m.

The train usually leaves the Martin Airport station at 7:00 a.m. and it did so Tuesday morning. Sometime after that and before 7:15 I heard a thud that was slightly louder than usual noises you might occasionally hear on a train.

Then there was a loud clicking or rattling noise that lasted for 10-15 seconds by my estimate after the fact. It was a really loud and horrifying sound which became even more horrifying when we were told what had happened.

Then the train started slowing down and some of the interior lights dimmed and we rolled to a stop. The crew announced we had hit a person walking on the tracks.

To illuminate things a bit for people who haven’t taken MARC: I was in the front (or southernmost) car on the southbound train. The locomotive was on the northernmost end of the train and the driver sits in a cab in the front of the southernmost car. That contributed to what I could actually hear.

Looking at Facebook and Twitter I could see that MTA was reporting the train stopped and not confirming a person was struck initially.

We were a good ways past where the strike took place so we didn’t see any emergency responders. There were some people there who appeared to be responding from Amtrak apparently but they could’ve been from other agencies.

The person was hit somewhere in the vicinity of the 695/702 interchange (between where the road passes over the tracks there and where 695 crosses again headed toward Batavia Park. The train came to a stop near Potomac Ave. based on my iPad’s GPS.

There were secondhand reports on the train that the person hit was a teenage girl but that information ended up being wrong after various news outlets reported it was a man.

We loaded onto an Amtrak train about 8:15. Where I was located on that train would have prevented me from looking at the front of the MARC train as we passed it but I saw one lady look and visibly recoil and express her disgust.

The train crew on MARC 517 was excellent and handled things very professionally. My thoughts and prayers are not only with the dead man’s family, but also with the train crew – especially the driver.

There have been other people walking on the tracks hit in the Middle River area and federal funding was obtained for new fencing and signs in that area. This incident took place south of there in a more desolate area where there is no fencing. Typically from what I’ve seen these incidents in that area are a result of people walking on the tracks, unlike subways where there are a lot of suicides on the tracks.

People need to say off the tracks, obviously, but I’m not sure there’s much more that can be done to prevent it.

I was quoted in Essex-Middle River Patch that morning about the incident.

Jeff Quinton

Jeff Quinton is a native South Carolinian who moved to the Baltimore area in 2006. He has been aggregating and blogging since 1998. His work experience includes radio news reporting, web design for government agencies at the state and federal level, and working in social media and communications for a DC public policy organization. Quinton is a military veteran of the Army National Guard (where he served as an intelligence analyst)a nd an Eagle Scout.