A 14-year-old girl was struck and killed by an Amtrak train Tuesday morning as she and a friend walked along a stretch of track in Middle River - adding one more name to the roll of Maryland teenagers who have perished while trespassing on railroad property in the past year.
The accident and its aftermath tied up Amtrak and MARC traffic in the corridor for much of the day and caused delays for many passengers.
Cpl. Michael Hill, a Baltimore County police spokesman, identified the victim as Anna Marie Stickel of the 700 block of Maple Crest Drive in Middle River.
According to Hill, the Kenwood High School freshman and another teenage girl were walking along the southbound tracks that parallel Orems Road about 9 a.m. when an Amtrak train traveling from New York to Washington came up behind them. Hill said the companion was able to jump out of the way but the victim was hit. The friend called 911 from her cell phone, but the victim was pronounced dead at the scene.
It was not clear Tuesday why the girls would have been on the tracks at the time of the accident. According to Baltimore County school system spokesman Charles Herndon, the final bell at Kenwood rings at 7:45 a.m. The victim's block, which receives school bus service, is about a 3-mile walk to the school.
The school made no formal announcement of the accident. Several students said word spread through the halls after parents text-messaged their children asking for information on the student hit by the train. By late morning, the students realized that it was the girl they knew as Anna. A crisis intervention team is expected to be at the school today.
The train tracks run alongside the backyards of homes in the Essex community, parallel to Orems Road. A 10-foot-high fence borders the tracks on both sides, but the fence has several breaks and is easily penetrable, according to students.
Hill said the girls were apparently on Amtrak property without authorization.
The girl became one of at least five teenagers to be killed while trespassing on railroad or transit line tracks in Maryland within the past year.
In October, a 13-year-old boy died in Cecil County when he was struck and killed by an Amtrak Acela train. Police said Shawn Luther Kelly was hit as he crossed the tracks near his Elkton-area home.
In July, Jarrett C. Peterson and Kyle Wankmiller, both 17, were killed when they were run over by a Maryland Transit Administration light rail train while walking along the tracks near Lutherville.
Last April, 14-year-old Prince Ibrahim Trye was killed when he was struck by a CSX freight train while walking on the tracks in Laurel.
Trespasser fatalities on the nation's railroad tracks are one of the most difficult problems facing the nation's railroad industry - regularly claiming hundreds of lives each year. According to the Federal Railroad Administration, there were 458 trespasser fatalities on U.S. railroad tracks in 2008 - seven of them in Maryland.
The area of Tuesday's fatality is particularly vulnerable to such incidents. Between Rossville Boulevard and Martin Boulevard there is a long stretch of track with no legal crossings. On one side lie Kenwood and Eastern Technical high schools; on the other lie several neighborhoods.
Samantha Humphrey, 15, a sophomore at Kenwood, said students often would cross the tracks near the school, using the route as a shortcut to get to Taco Bell and other nearby restaurants.
"A lot of people use the tracks. Probably half of the students," Samantha said.
Friends remembered the victim as an attractive girl with shoulder-length blonde hair and a smile that made her classmates jealous.
Chaatavia Lughman said she knew her since sixth grade.
"I used to envy her because it seemed like she got everything she wanted," Chaatavia said. "But I got to know her, and she was always happy and cheerful."
Added Sade Shepard, 14, a freshman who shared a physical education class with the girl: "If someone was down, she'd say something nice to help them out."
The accident and investigation disrupted Amtrak traffic in the Northeast Corridor, as well as MARC Penn Line service between Washington and Perryville. Amtrak spokeswoman Karina Romero said traffic in the corridor was shut down at 9:02 a.m. and the tracks were not fully reopened until 12:04 p.m.