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Law enforcement canvas Gilpin Court, raising awareness for railroad safety

Published: Sep. 21, 2021 at 11:17 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Tuesday evening, emergency workers from Richmond police, as well as the fire department, Richmond Ambulance Authority, and Virginia State Corporation Commission, gathered at the railroad crossing on Saint James Street in recognition of National Rail Safety Week.

Back in August, 7-year-old Maessin Hayes was near the railroad crossing and fell from his scooter under a train that severed his leg.

“Trains can stop, but they can’t stop quickly,” said Tracey Lamb with the SCC.

According to police, before the incident, kids in the neighborhood would play near the railroad crossing, which sits at the bottom of a hill in Gilpin Court. Now they are using that incident as a lesson to make sure more kids aren’t seriously injured or killed.

“It’s disheartening when our ambulances respond to an emergency we know was preventable,” said a spokesperson with RAA. “Less than 50 percent of parents, just 47 percent speak to their kids about railroad safety, and even worse, 50 percent of parents take reckless actions around the railroad.”

Tuesday, the collection of emergency workers put their boots to the ground, canvassing the neighborhood, connecting the community with resources, and educating children to prevent future tragedies on the track.

“Think about 7-years-old and being with your buddy who’s seven years old; that’s a lot to have to live with for the rest of your life,” said Carol Adams with Richmond Police. “We’re telling people to not play around the tracks and to be safe on the track.”

During the canvas, Richmond police got a chance to check up on Maessin and his mother, Latisha Hayes.

“A lot of the time, we look at the incident but we don’t look at the repercussions of how it impacted the community,” Adams said.

Maessin was just released from the hospital this week, but he was all smiles as he sped around in his new wheelchair. Hayes says he’s not letting anything stop him from being a kid.

“He’s ready,” Latisha said. “God is good all the time because he could have taken my baby.”

Latisha says she lives on top of the hill overlooking the railroad crossing, which still gives her trauma when she hears it pass by. She says the visible show of support from law enforcement means everything to her.

“It’s keeping me stronger as a person; I have six kids, so it’s making me a better person and I’m just humbled,” Hayes said. “He’s alive, he made it through the train.”

TIPS:

  • Make good decisions when walking or driving near railroad tracks. Avoid distractions like texting or wearing headphones (or earbuds). They may prevent you from hearing an approaching train.
  • Never walk on or beside railroad tracks. It is trespassing, illegal and dangerous.
  • It takes the average freight train traveling at 55 mph more than a mile to stop. That’s the length of 18 football fields.
  • The average locomotive weighs about 400,000 pounds. This makes the weight ratio of a train to a car proportional to that of car to a soda can. We all know what happens to a soda can hit by a car.
  • If you get stuck on the railroad tracks or need to get in contact with the railroad, find the blue and white Emergency Notification System sign located near the crossing. It lists a telephone number along with the crossing’s US DOT number. Use it to notify the railroad of an emergency or a warning device malfunction.
  • Anytime is train time. Freight trains don’t travel at fixed times and schedules for passenger trains often change.

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