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May 31, 2003


From: South Florida Sun-Sentinel, FL - May 31, 2003

Deaf woman struck by train

By Sam Tranum
Staff Writer

Lake Worth ∑ Nerlyne Regisme never got to sing her song.

The 23-year-old woman struggled for three weeks to write Fly Free, said Jeff Jackson, assistant pastor at First Baptist Church in West Palm Beach, where Regisme went most Sundays.

It didn't have a melody. It didn't need one because Regisme, who was deaf, planned to sing it in slow, sweeping sign language for Jackson's deaf congregation.

"She wasn't quite ready," said Jackson, who is deaf. "I told her to take her time."

Regisme could have been working on the lyrics while she walked the three blocks along the train tracks from the grocery store to her home Thursday evening.

She could have been absorbed in her thoughts, talking to herself in sign language as she sometimes did, said Caroline Reedy, Jackson's secretary.

Maybe that's why Regisme didn't feel the train roaring up behind her.

About 7:13 p.m. Thursday, the train hit her, police say. She died on the spot, her body crumpled on the gravel next to the tracks, said neighbors who arrived shortly after the accident.

"We were very puzzled why she didn't feel when the train was coming," Jackson said.

On Friday afternoon, a few tatters of yellow and black crime scene tape hung from trees along the train tracks.

Orange spray paint outlined a chain of marks in the gravel alongside the rails. A bunch of artificial red roses stood in the last orange circle.

Twelve-year-old Jonathan Hurtado wandered up holding a half-eaten burger and an open iced tea. He said he lived nearby and had seen Regisme's body the day before, lying at the spot marked with roses.

In a shaky voice, eyes wet, he said he returned, "just to check."

Regisme was born and raised in Haiti, where she went to a school for the deaf outside Port-au-Prince, Jackson said. She came to Florida as a teenager with her family about a decade ago, he said.

Regisme had brain cancer and, though doctors operated when she was 16, she still suffered seizures, Reedy said. She needed regular insulin injections to keep her diabetes under control, Reedy said.

Though Regisme struggled with health problems, things were improving lately and she was a happy person, said Jackson and Reedy, who knew her for about a half-dozen years. Regisme lived with Reedy for a few months at one point as a sort of a treat -- everyone at Reedy's house used sign language, she said.

Regisme was in job training at the Goodwill Rehabilitation Center on 45th Street in Mangonia Park, Jackson said.

She dreamed of working in a big clothing store at a mall, he said.

She hung out with a group of deaf Haitian friends and she loved to watch basketball games at the church, Jackson said.

Cars lined the streets Friday near the one-story, salmon-colored stucco house on 17th Avenue North where Regisme lived with her family.

Inside, Gene Osborne, an investigator for Montgomery & Larson, said the family had hired his law firm and did not yet have anything to say publicly. Family members declined to talk about Regisme.

Neighbors said they knew Regisme's family. Some said her father, a landscaper, worked on their lawns or hedges.

But they said they didn't really know Regisme, since they couldn't talk to her.

That's what Will Rose, 45, was explaining Friday when he was interrupted by a rumble and a horn blast.

"There goes the train now. I guess that sound's gotta be driving [the family] crazy," he said. "God, it's a shame."

Copyright © 2003, South Florida Sun-Sentinel