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October 16, 2002

Deaf Channelview man struck, killed by oncoming train

From: North Channel Sun, TX
Oct. 16, 2002

By: Chris Davila October 16, 2002
A tragedy occurred last Thursday when a man was struck by a Union Pacific train in Channelview. The man, identified as 23-year-old Scotty Lee Rodriguez, was walking on a railroad line in a residential area just east of the Dell Dale railroad crossing near Avenue C. According to the victim's family, Rodriguez was on his way to the house of a relative who lives nearby.

A witness, Christopher Fitzgerald, reported hearing several warning blasts from the train. After hearing one long blast, he approached the tracks to see what was going on. Fitzgerald saw the train coming behind Rodriguez and began shouting for the train to stop.

The train engineer, James Vitz, stated that Rodriguez did not acknowledge the warning and continued walking in the center of the tracks. Vitz then applied the emergency brakes, but was unable to stop in time.

Rodriguez stumbled and fell under the locomotive. Fitzgerald found the victim under the second engine at which time he asked his wife to call 911.

North Channel EMS paramedics arrived on the scene shortly after the accident. They were unable to save Rodriguez and he was pronounced dead a few minutes later.

According to Mark Davis, regional director of public relations for Union Pacific, the train was not traveling at a high rate of speed when the victim was struck. He said that some trains travel more than a mile after the brakes are applied.

"Even if the train was traveling at 10 miles per hour, it will still go several hundred yards before coming to a complete stop, depending on the load," he said.

The amount of cargo on the 87 railcars weighed 5,556 tons and stretched over a mile long. According to one witness, the train was traveling at about 5 miles per hour.

"The train was not traveling very fast because it was not going through a rural area," said Davis.

The locomotive originated from near downtown Houston and was traveling eastbound to Baytown, making a few stops at the Englewood train yard near 610 and Kirkpatrick.

After speaking with the family of Rodriguez, Harris County Sheriffs Office investigators learned that the victim was deaf and was not able to sense the train. Davis says the vibrations on the tracks might not be felt until the train passes by.

"A rail line is somewhere you do not want to be around," said Davis. "Remember that trains can't stop as fast as cars, so residents should use caution around train tracks and crossings," he said.

©North Channel Sentinel 2002