Teaching the Community About Railroad Safety - WSET.com - ABC13

Teaching the Community About Railroad Safety

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Reporter: Lauren Compton | Videographer: Jemon Haskins

Amherst Co., VA - Norfolk Southern officials are stressing the importance of not risking being stuck on train tracks when a train approaches. 

Every year, hundreds of people try their luck and die. Just six months ago, it happened in our area with the death of Liberty University student Hannah Williams.

Norfolk Southern is almost desperate to keep these sorts of tragedies from happening.

Investigation specialists from the company say our area has a pretty bad track record for this, and they say it's getting worse.

Just Thursday, Norfolk Southern rode around with police and handed out six warnings for railroad trespassing.

Within eyeshot of the train trestle that crosses from Lynchburg into Amherst County, people on River Road grow up being extremely cautious of the river and the railroad.

"I'm going to use the word "city folks". If you are not used to the country, the railroads tracks they look at it as playground. They really look at it as a playground," said Judy Argenbright, a resident.

" We've seen numerous people killed. We've watched them jump from it to try to escape a moving train, and it's never pretty," said Jesse Argenbright, owner of Red & Dot.

Too many times it's deadly, which was the case in November Williams, 18, was hit by an oncoming train. Her three friends were injured.

That's why Norfolk Southern holds Trespassing Abatement Programs every year - reaching out to communities and pushing the importance of railroad safety.

"Historically approximately 500 people a year are killed nationwide crossing on railroad property not just on NS… that's all the railroads combined," said Gary Hedgepath, manager of special investigations with Norfolk Southern.

They even include local law enforcement in the outreach by giving them a first-hand experience.

"By actually getting up trackside coming down the rail, you get the same perspective as the train engineers and conductors," said Lewis Kellison, supervisory special agent with Norfolk Southern Railroad Enforcement.

It's a way to show police the dangers and hopefully impact how they crack down on it. Word of mouth helps too.

"Everybody needs to wake up. Don't play on a railroad track. It's like playing with a stick of dynamite or Russian roulette," said Argenbright.

A lot of folks wonder why Norfolk Southern just can't put up a fence or block it in some way. Officials say the big reason they can't is cost. That is why they need everyone to be proactive in preventing this issue.

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