By JB Clark/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – An investigation is under way after a Tupelo teen was hit by a train and killed Thursday.
Ron Woods, 16, a Tupelo High School student died shortly after noon on the tracks between Blair and Jefferson streets where a BNSF train was heading south.
According to BNSF Public Affairs Director Joe Faust, the teen was struck and fatally injured on the stretch of track running parallel to King Street.
Faust said the teen was walking down the center of the tracks when the accident occurred. Woods’ main image on his Facebook page shows him posing in the middle of train tracks.
A preliminary investigation by BNSF shows the teen was walking south. Investigators found ear buds and a radio on the teen and said they believe he may have been listening to music and unable to hear the whistle. Tupelo Police Capt. Rusty Haynes said they are continuing to investigate the incident but suspect no foul play at this time.
BNSF and Tupelo Police Department investigators said they have not been contacted by the National Transportation Safety Board, which is a federal agency tasked with investigating these types of accidents.
Residents of nearby King Street said they heard a train’s whistle blown repeatedly while someone tried to stop the train.
Michael Bordelon, who lives on the corner of King and West Jefferson streets, said he heard the commotion about 12:15 p.m. but did not see what happened. It took the train more than 100 yards to stop.
King Street resident Dennis Krutz said people use a path between the houses on King Street to cross the train tracks on their way to nearby stores.
“When they hear the whistle blowing, they start running to beat the train,” Krutz said.
Paramedics surveyed the scene for about an hour to locate the body and remove it from beneath the train. A body bag was loaded into the ambulance just before 1:15 p.m.
Faust said the maximum authorized speed for a train to travel through the city of Tupelo is 44 miles per hour. He said at 50 miles per hour, it takes a train about 1 mile to stop. The exact speed of the train at the time of the collision is still not known but Faust said he believes it to be less than 44 miles per hour.
Faust said BNSF investigators will work with Tupelo law enforcement to continue the investigation.
Traffic on Jefferson Street was blocked for several hours.
The Tupelo Public School District released a statement saying counselors will be at the school Friday to help students and staff, The Associated Press reported.