FG and HI had crossed a train trestle to reach their favorite fishing
hole. The fish were not biting, so the two young men gathered their
poles and tackle boxes and climbed back onto the trestle. At or
near this time, they were detected by two crew members of an approaching
train. The train was traveling at a speed of about 62 mph.. The
engineer sounded the horn.
According to a witness, shortly before the horn was heard, either
FG or HI yelled, "Train." They tossed their gear and began
to run towards the far end of the bridge. To clear the trestle,
they would have to cover more than 600 feet. The trestle was about
630 feet long. The train did not slow down. The two men were about
60 feet from the end of the bridge when HI tried to pass FG. It
was too late. Both young men were killed.
HF Issues: When FG and HI first became aware of the approaching
train, it was more than 4000 feet away and would not reach them
for another 45 seconds. At that time, they were only about 30 feet
from the end of the trestle. They could have covered that distance
in 7 or 8 seconds if they walked, or in about 2 seconds if they
ran. Instead, they ran towards the far end of the trestle, which
was more than 600 feet away. Why?
Other issues pertained to the behavior of the crew. The engineer
believed that the young men would clear the trestle and did not
slow the train.
HF Investigation: Information obtained included, but was
not limited to: the depositions of the crew; the depositions of
witnesses who were fishing near the trestle; and train speed data
(obtained through Train Trax Data Analysis).
HF Analysis: A scale computer drawing was created of the
train and the trestle. This graphic was used in conjunction with
all the available sources of information to reconstruct the likely
sequence of events. The above thumbnail description of the accident
was based on that reconstruction. With regard to FG’s and HI’s behavior,
it was not necessary to postulate that they voluntarily assumed
the risk of trying to outrun the train. Rather, in my opinion, their
behavior was consistent with “return to the natural mode.” That
is, it has been observed that when subjected to stressors, people
may return to well established patterns of behavior even if those
behaviors are not adaptive to the situation at hand. In my opinion,
when either FG or HI yelled "Train," the two young men
“panicked” and ran away from the danger.