State News

Train kills Four Oaks woman readying serviceman's send-off

Posted March 27
Updated March 28

A woman preparing a send-off for a relative entering the military was killed when she crossed a railroad track on a path used by locals between houses in a small North Carolina town, authorities said. (Photo by John Payne)

A woman preparing a send-off for a relative entering the military was killed when she crossed a railroad track on a path used by locals between houses in Four Oaks, authorities said.

Before she was killed Saturday afternoon, the woman had been helping to tie balloons for the party at a house in Four Oaks, about 30 miles southeast of Raleigh, said Police Chief Stephen Anderson.

"Witnesses said they heard the train blowing the horn," Anderson said. "She must not have heard it and walked in front of the train."

A young man related to the woman was going into the military, so the family was having a party for him, Four Oaks Mayor Linwood Parker said. He said the woman was walking between houses along a path that crossed the railroad but wasn't considered a marked crossing.

"The houses, some of them were built prior to automobiles, and they had a path across the track," he said.

A level of comfort and familiarity around the tracks appears to predate the founding of the town, which now has about 2,000 people and hosts a yearly Acorn Festival. The town's website says it developed around the tracks and owes its name to the railroad. It was chosen as a site for a supply depot because of an unusual landmark — a tree 50 feet from the tracks that had four trunks growing from one base, the site says.

The mayor referred questions about the woman's identity to the police chief, who said he might release it later Sunday.

Anderson said no charges are expected in the death.

Mike Tolbert, an Amtrak spokesman, says the accident occurred at 3:37 p.m. Saturday.

"The person was on the right of way, but didn't have authorization to be on the tracks," he said.

None of the crew or 217 passengers were injured, he said. The train was traveling from New York to Savannah, Georgia.

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