A teenager is dead after being struck by a passenger train in Crescent Beach Wednesday evening.
Police confirmed a male youth was hit shortly after 10 p.m. and was dead when officers arrived.
The victim’s age and name haven’t been released at this time, however, Peace Arch News has learned he was a 15-year-old student at a South Surrey high school, and an avid athlete.
“Surrey RCMP is currently investigating the matter and the investigation is still in its early stages,” noted an RCMP release. “There are multiple witnesses that are being interviewed in order to create a clear picture of the incident.”
According to one witness, the victim was among a group of around 50 teens who had gathered on the beach near the Christopherson Stairs, which lead to the waterfront from the foot of 24 Avenue. He was reportedly crossing the tracks towards the beach when he was hit.
The impact of the train threw the teen “as if he was hit by a car,” the witness said.
Police, firefighters, paramedics and search-and-rescue crews responded, along with the Coast Guard Hovercraft. The coroner also attended.
As word of the incident spread on social media, parents of some of the teens – reportedly including those of the victim – arrived at the scene.
Thursday morning, a bouquet of flowers was placed on a rock at the entrance of Christopherson Stairs, and a green lei hung on a bush near the tracks, next to a black camping chair. In the bush behind the chair, a smashed cellphone with a photo of two teens on the back was found by a PAN reporter shortly after 8 a.m.
Two RCMP investigators met with PAN at the scene to retrieve the phone and take a statement. Police took multiple photographs of where the phone was located and a nearby fire pit.
Wednesday evening, a passenger aboard the Amtrak Cascades 518 told the North Delta Reporter the northbound train came to an abrupt stop at around 10 p.m., just after crossing the Canada/U.S. border.
Evan Hagedorn – a recently graduated journalism student who interned with the Reporter this spring – said an Amtrak employee told passengers that there was an emergency on the tracks.
Emergency crews could be seen outside the train shortly after, and passengers were provided with a more detailed update roughly half an hour later, Hagedorn said.
“They came over the speaker and then they said that there was a group of teenagers on the beach and then a group of them on the tracks, and we had struck one of them. They were on the tracks and then we struck one of them and then that’s why we were stopped,” he said.
Hagedorn said that in a subsequent update at 11:24 p.m., passengers were informed that the coroner was en route, and that the train’s engineer, conductor and witnesses to the accident had been interviewed by investigators.
The train was delayed 4½ hours.
Many commenters on Facebook have expressed condolences to the teen’s family, along with “prayers for engineers on this train as they’ll suffer for (a) very long time from PTSD over this accident that wasn’t their fault.”
“Unfortunate for everyone involved,” writes Nolan Val.
There is also speculation as to why the teen was on the tracks, however, police have only commented that “circumstances of the incident are still under investigation.”
BNSF spokesperson Gus Melonas told PAN the tragedy is the first train fatality on BNSF tracks in B.C. this year. There have been nine in Washington State.
“This is the first of the year in British Columbia,” Melonas said Thursday. “That’s one too many.”
Crews have been “aggressively” patrolling the tracks between White Rock and Crescent Beach, he said, noting 15 violation tickets for trespassing were issued in the two days prior to the tragedy.
“We’re going to be out again today,” Melonas said Thursday.
“We’re going to be aggressively patrolling, not to be bullies, but to save lives.
“These trains can’t stop.”
Anyone with information regarding Wednesday’s fatality is asked to contact the Surrey General investigation Unit at 604-599-0502 or call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477, quoting file number 2018-96971.
– files from Aaron Hinks