2nd Teenager Dies

Boys Were Found On Light Rail Track

July 07, 2009|By Michael Dresser and Olivia Bobrowsky | Michael Dresser and Olivia Bobrowsky,michael.dresser@baltsun.com

A second teenager died Monday after being found injured on light rail tracks near the Lutherville station the previous afternoon, and Maryland Transit Administration police are still trying to determine what happened to the teens.

MTA spokeswoman Cheron Wicker identified the boy who died Monday at Maryland Shock Trauma Center as Connor Peterson, 17, of the 8600 block Tower Bridge Way in Lutherville. She said Kyle Patrick Wankmiller, 17, of the same address, died Sunday.

The incident occurred about 3:15 p.m. Sunday, but Wicker said it was "much too early to tell" why the two teens were lying on the southbound light rail tracks just south of the Lutherville station when they were spotted by a fare inspector on a northbound train.

Wicker said both were taken to Shock Trauma in Baltimore, where Wankmiller was pronounced dead soon after.

MTA officials were going over camera footage from the train, seeking information on what happened, according to Jawauna Greene, another agency spokeswoman. As of late Monday, police were not saying whether they were looking at the deaths as an accident, suicide or homicide.

"We have to confirm why they were lying in the tracks," Greene said. The MTA inspected its light rail cars after the incident but found no evidence of impact with a person, she added.

In the area where the teens were found, light rail tracks pass among dozens of suburban homes, including the Victorians in historic Lutherville. Although much of the track is bordered by fences, there are openings for roads and walkways nearby.

Farther away, outside the well-kept townhouse where the two boys lived, Connor's 19-year-old sister, Tracy Peterson, said the friends left on bicycles Sunday "because they were bored."

She said that her father is dating Kyle's mother, and that she and Connor moved into the Wankmiller home near Valley Fields Parks in 2007.

Tracy Peterson said she had no idea what had happened to her brother and his friend. "We wish we knew but we don't," she said.

A friend, Emileigh Simmons, 18, said Connor had dropped out of Dulaney High School and had received his general education degree in January. Kyle would have been going into his junior year at the school. Their friends said neither boy had a job this summer.

Tracy Peterson's boyfriend, Aaron Dukes, said Connor was "kind of like my brother." Aaron said Connor was interested in skateboarding, dirt-biking, music and tattoos. The friends said Kyle shared many of the same interests.

"They were both just great, great people to be around" Aaron said. "They would just hang out here, watch TVs and movies, messed around."

As the young people spoke with a reporter, Kyle's mother, Amy Wankmiller, remained inside. Emileigh said she was "hanging in there, I guess."

Eric Rockel, president of the Greater Timonium Community Council, lives within sight of the light rail tracks in Lutherville. "I can tell you that it bothers me to see ... people walking up and down the light rail line," he said, a weekly occurrence at least. "I wonder if they're going to be sensitive to trains coming along."

He assumes the people are trying to take the shortest path between two points, but walking on the tracks "carries an inherent risk that maybe doesn't exist if they took other routes."

Rockel said residents felt more comfortable when off-duty Baltimore County police officers used to patrol light rail stations. There have been anecdotal reports of increased shoplifting after the light rail was built, but no concerns or complaints recently, he said.

Jeff Dier, president of the Lutherville Community Association, said there have been few problems connected with the light rail in the neighborhood lately. He said that once in a while he'll see some young people around the tracks but added that it doesn't happen often.

Dier said the station area had been re-engineered to make it difficult to cross the tracks there except at designated points.

Sun reporter Liz F. Kay contributed to this article.

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