By JAMES DRAPER
A man was killed by a passing train shortly after 5 p.m. Sunday as he walked along the railroad tracks in Kilgore.
The locomotive’s conductor reportedly sounded his horn multiple times as the eastbound engine rolled on, but the train’s personnel say the man did not react to the noise. The victim has since been identified as Kilgore resident Jeremy Nathan Owens, 38.
Gregg County Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace Talyna Carlson pronounced the time of death at 5:04 p.m. and ordered the man’s body be sent for an autopsy – results are pending.
The point of impact fell northeast of the railroad’s Lantrip Street crossing. Kilgore Police Officers and outside investigators focused on a stretch-of-right on the northern side of the tracks in the 700 block of Longview Street as the train remained stationary into the night.
According to an initial report from Kilgore Police Department’s interviews with Union Pacific personnel and examination of the scene, as the eastbound train approached, the victim was facing away, also traveling east. Witnesses onboard the train said he didn’t see the coming danger or react despite multiple blows of the train’s horn.
The train conductor sounded the horn four or five times, KPD Assistant Chief Roman Roberson reported, trying to warn the man away from the tracks. Owens didn’t appear to acknowledge the blast.
“They said he never turned, never veered off the tracks,” Roberson confirmed Monday. “They received no indication he was hearing the horn.”
King Street residents confirmed hearing the train blasting its horn and braking. Downtown Kilgore has a quiet zone in place, but train conductors can always sound the engine’s warning in a dangerous situation.
“It’s very thick vegetation on the sides of the tracks,” Kilgore Police Chief Todd Hunter said Sunday, an area between the Kilgore High School parking lot on one side and the city yard on the other.
Downtown, the Main Street railroad crossing’s emergency guards and lights were active into the evening, the rear end of the train stopped nearby. The Lantrip crossing was lit as well and blocked by the cars. Further northeast, the Southport Road crossing was active and blocked, too, with the head of the train is stopped between Southport and the Hwy. 259 overpass.
“We are working on reviewing the video from Union Pacific,” Hunter said Sunday evening.
The cause of the incident is still under investigation, according to an emailed statement from Union Pacific’s Justin E. Jacobs Monday afternoon.
The railroad’s director of media relations, Jacobs confirmed the basic details from Sunday’s collision, which occurred in UP’s Palestine Subdivision.
“Our hearts go out to friends and family of the deceased,” he wrote. The locomotive engineer and conductor were immediately put in touch with peer counselors, Jacobs added. “The safety message here is that pedestrians, and everyone, need to be very aware of the hazards associated with trains and should never be on the train tracks or attempt to cross anywhere other than a designated crossing when signs and signals permit.”
This is the second fatal incident involving a train in this area in recent weeks: an elderly man was killed in Overton June 21 when his electric wheelchair became stuck on the tracks at a railroad crossing.
Locally, KPD Det. Lynn Newbill is in charge of the Kilgore case (No. 1807-0035). Anyone with information on the incident can reach her at 903-218-6907.