More details released in Saturday train-related fatality

By Pat Pratt ppratt@civitasmedia.com

June 18, 2014

More details have emerged in the death of a photographer struck by an Amtrak train on Saturday at the Union Pacific U.S. Highway 50 overpass as authorities confirm the engineer followed proper procedure and the victim was trespassing.

Jonathan D. Eade was taking pictures at 12:51 p.m. on the Union Pacific U.S. Highway 50 overpass when an oncoming train struck and killed him.

“He was trespassing on the railroad bridge, which I think most people are aware is a fairly narrow bridge,” said Sedalia Police Sgt. Josh Howell. “It is not designed to have a pedestrian and a train on the bridge at the same time — it’s only wide enough for the train.”

Authorities say a “blind curve” in the tracks and the noise of traffic below may have contributed to the accident.

“There were two individuals on the bridge and they were surprised by the train,” Howell said. “There is what I would call somewhat of a blind corner just east of the bridge. The train comes around the corner, there are trees blocking the view and it was moving pretty fast. It was an Amtrak, which people know, goes a little faster than a freight train.”

Amtrak officials said the engineer followed proper procedure. While the exact speed of the train in unknown at this time, pending the results of the investigation, an eight-car passenger train traveling at 79 mph can take up to a mile to stop.

“From what we have been told by Amtrak, the engineer did everything he could,” Howell said. “He sounded all the warnings devices on the train. He put the train into full emergency, which is basically the fastest way they know how to stop a train, but there was just not enough room.”

Police confirmed the bridge is clearly marked with no trespassing signs and they will arrest anyone crossing those or other private property boundaries.

“There are two signs on each end of the bridge for a total of four signs saying Union Pacific Property no trespassing,” Howell said. “Union Pacific Railroad has made it known to us, that they are willing to pursue anyone we find trespassing on Union Pacific property.”

The railway offered the following advice to those wishing to photograph trains. The complete Amtrak photography and video policy is available at amtrak.com/photography-video-recording-policy.

“Always photograph from public areas and never trespass on railroad property,” said Marc Magliari, Amtrak Media Relations Manager.

Amtrak officials said these types of accidents are tragic for everyone involved.

“These incidents are tragic for the family of the person who was trespassing and their friends and families. They are often also tragic for our train crewmembers, who are following the rules and operating safely, yet unable to avoid making contact with people or vehicles in their path,” Magliari said.

“That’s why Amtrak and other railroads support the work of Operation Lifesaver to educate the public about the dangers of trespassing and disregarding the warnings from the trains themselves along the right-of-way and at crossings.”

According to the organization Operation Lifesaver, in 1972, when the average number of collisions at U.S. highway-rail grade crossings had risen to more than 12,000 incidents annually, the Idaho governor’s office, along with the Idaho Peace Officers and Union Pacific Railroad, launched a six-week public awareness educational campaign called Operation Lifesaver to promote highway-rail grade crossing safety.

After Idaho’s crossing-related fatalities fell that year by 43 percent, Nebraska, Kansas and Georgia adopted the successful program the following year. More information on Operation Lifesaver is available at oli.org.

Eade’s is the second train-related death in Missouri this year, according to the Federal Railroad Administration.