Woman crossing tracks is killed by freight train

August 10, 1994|By Ed Heard | Ed Heard,Sun Staff Writer

A 39-year-old woman was struck and killed by a northbound CSX freight train early yesterday morning as she crossed the tracks on a pedestrian crosswalk at the MARC train depot on Main Street in Laurel.

Laurel police said Marsha E. Saponari of the 9400 block of Spring House Lane was pronounced dead at the scene. Her body -- found 147 feet from the point of impact -- was taken to the state medical examiner's office in Baltimore, police said.

About 8:30 a.m. yesterday, Ms. Saponari parked her car and was walking to catch a southbound MARC passenger train that would take her to work in Washington, police said.

Sgt. William Fairall said riders typically park in a lot east of the station, then cross the tracks to board southbound commuter trains.

"Usually they go up, look both ways, cross over and everything's fine -- but not on this morning," Sergeant Fairall said. "The train sounded an audible alarm. She didn't acknowledge it. She didn't even turn."

Sergeant Fairall said Ms. Saponari -- whether in a rush or preoccupied -- failed to look around for oncoming trains before she crossed. Trains are visible from 150 to 200 feet in each direction of the pedestrian crosswalk, he said.

The horns, headlights and bells of the Baltimore-bound train, en route from Richmond, Va., had been sounded, said Kathy Burns, a spokeswoman at CSX's Jacksonville, Fla., headquarters.

"The crew was acting properly on the entire operation of the train," Ms. Burns said.

The train, traveling at 50 mph, included four locomotive units, weighed 1,193 tons and was 2,922 feet long, she said.

John Giannetti, a Democratic candidate for a House of Delegates seat in District 13B, was handing out campaign literature when the accident occurred. He said he did not hear horns or other warning devices on the freight train.

"Usually you hear a whistle or something prior to it coming, but we heard nothing until it was right there," he said.

Mr. Giannetti said he had given the woman a brochure just moments before the accident.

"When I ran toward her there was no movement. She was like a bundle, a pile of clothes," he said.

A man who witnesses say was walking right behind Ms. Saponari barely missed being hit, pulling himself back at the last moment. Sergeant Fairall said police are trying to locate the man.

A loaded freight train can take up to a mile and a half to brake. Last year, there were 26 pedestrian fatalities in Maryland, said Luis Del Rio, a spokesman for the Federal Railroad Administration in Washington.

"Most people don't realize that trains can't stop on the drop of a dime," Mr. Del Rio said. "In many cases, people don't see until the last moment and that's often too late."

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