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March 14, 2006

Miss Deaf Texas killed by train

From: News 8 Austin - Austin,TX,USA - Mar 14, 2006

By: News 8 Austin Staff

Early Tuesday morning flowers could already be found at the site where Tara McAvoy lost her life.

"She had a big bright beautiful smile with a little dimple to the left of her smile. She was the kind of kid you just didn't forget," Claire Bugen of the Texas School for the Deaf.

The reigning Miss Deaf Texas was hit by the northbound train Monday afternoon while walking along some train tracks in South Austin. The accident happened at West Oltorf Lane and Thornton Road about 2:30 p.m. Monday.

McAvoy graduated last year from the Texas School for the Deaf where she was involved in theater, volleyball, student leadership and pageants. She completed one semester at Gallaudet University in Washington.

"For our students who come in elementary school and stay with us until graduation, we are a little more like a family than most public schools. So we experience the loss deeply," Bugen said.

McAvoy was only walking a few feet from the track when a plow on the front of a Union Pacific train hit her, the Austin Police Department said.

"The plow extends approximately 16 inches on both sides of the tracks," Det. David Fugitt said.

Union Pacific is conducting its own investigation.

Austin police say the train has a "black box" that should tell them how fast the train was going at the time of the accident, also how many times the horn was honked and how long it took for the emergency brake to work.

Austin police say McAvoy text messaged her mother just minutes before the accident happened.

The 18-year-old said she was going to take a short cut down the railroad tracks to meet her mom at work.

"We believe she may have been sending text messages to friends and family as well during that time," Fugitt said.

That's a factor, police say, that could have kept her from noticing the train.

The Texas School for the Deaf says to watch its Web site for information on a memorial and funeral for McAvoy.

McAvoy was named Miss Deaf Texas in June 2005. She was planning to compete in Miss Deaf America this summer.

The Texas Pageant Association released a statement saying she was a young lady who demonstrated poise and pride who will be missed.

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