Boy hit crossing unfenced track

Accident: Devron Pittman was taking a shortcut near his Havre de Grace home when he was struck and killed by a train.

February 21, 2005|By Melissa Harris | Melissa Harris,SUN STAFF

Devron Pittman, 11, walked to his friend Terrance Johnson's house in Havre de Grace late Saturday afternoon looking for someone to play with.

Terrance's sister, Sylvetta Monk, 11, answered the door shortly before 5 p.m. and said Terrance, also 11, was over at The Dollar General Store on U.S. 40. The two decided to cut through the woods and cross the railroad tracks behind the Bradford Green subdivision to get there.

As Devron walked across the four tracks, he was struck and killed by a high-speed Amtrak Acela train.

The posted speed limit for that section of the track is 125 mph, an Amtrak spokeswoman said yesterday.

At her home yesterday, Sylvetta described how the accident occurred.

To get to the tracks, she and Devron passed a neighborhood playground, basketball court and an empty house that had been converted into a neighborhood center. Then they climbed down a small wooded embankment.

The shortcut behind the Battery Village complex in the Bradford Green neighborhood is a muddy, well-worn path. There is no gate or fence separating the tracks and the rowhouses made mostly of brick.

Sylvetta and Devron were crossing the four tracks when she heard the whooshing sound of the approaching train, she said.

Devron was just reaching the third track. Sylvetta jumped backward and watched as Devron jumped to the fourth track - the track the train ultimately followed after the southbound line split into two tracks.

"He realized he had to make a choice," Sylvetta said. "He didn't know which way to run and panicked."

Relatives are calling for a fence to be built between the playground and the Amtrak rails and for warning signs to be posted.

"It's just a wide-open area," Devron's grandmother, Barbara Kell of Aberdeen, said. "Why that is when there's a residential area where children are playing right next door is beyond me."

Amtrak spokeswoman Vernae Graham said the company could not respond to questions regarding its policy on fences until normal business hours resumed tomorrow.

Devron's stepfather, Dickson Boateng, said he went searching for the boy after he failed to return home by his 7:30 p.m. curfew. Boateng said he thought Devron was at Terrance's house. As he walked to Terrance's house, Boateng said, he saw police and fire crews.

He said yesterday he was unaware that children were crossing the tracks.

Relatives described Devron as an inquisitive fifth-grader who loved to read and had just made the honor roll at Havre de Grace Elementary School. A congratulatory message from his mother, Eldonette Pittman, was still posted on a white-erase board in the family's kitchen yesterday afternoon.

"Devron, Congratulations on your honor roll achievement! Keep up the good work. Love, Mommy."

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