On the right track

Bowling Green police officers will be stepping up their patrol of the city’s railroad tracks this weekend after two pedestrians were killed by trains in July.

A joint force of four to six Bowling Green police officers and CSX railroad security officers will be citing individuals for trespassing on the tracks.

In both July fatalities, the victims were trespassing on the CSX railroad company’s property, said Lt. Tony Hetrick of the Bowling Green Police Division.

Many people don’t realize they are violating the law when they fail to cross the tracks at designated crossings, he said.

In Ohio, not crossing at a crosswalk is considered a fourth-degree misdemeanor, punishable by a citation, fine or jail time.

Since the incidents, police have devoted more time to monitoring the rails and have been issuing more citations.

On Aug. 10, Carolyn Knezevic, 22, of Highland Heights, Ohio, was charged with disorderly conduct while intoxicated and criminal trespassing after police saw her get out of a car at the Clough Street crossing and attempt to touch a passing train.

This weekend’s joint patrol with CSX security officers is meant to coincide with the start of the new semester. Hetrick said the weekend before classes is typically a busy time for many crimes, including trespassing on the tracks.

“Be aware we will be looking for trespassing and we will give citations,” Hetrick said.

The heightened concern about safety along the city’s railroad tracks began when University student Timothy Gregory, 21, was struck and killed by a northbound CSX freight train in the area near East Merry Street during the early morning hours of July 6.

Witnesses saw Gregory lying across the tracks just before he was hit, according to the police report.

Nine days later, early in the morning on July 15, Dr. Jason Sheehan, 32, of Toledo, was struck and killed by another CSX freight train in the area between Sunrise and Lehman avenues.

The Wood County coroner determined Gregory’s death was accidental, but has not yet ruled on Sheehan.

Before July, the last time a pedestrian was killed by a train in Bowling Green was in November of 1995. Jessica Mawson, 21, of Delaware, Ohio, was struck and killed because she was “scurrying to beat the train,” according to a police report.

But even though trains have only killed three pedestrians in Bowling Green in the last 12 years, train accidents cause more deaths than most realize, CSX spokesman Garrick Francis said.

If a train is traveling at 55 mph, it needs a mile to make a complete stop, Francis said.

This makes it difficult for the crew of train to avoid a collision when they spot someone on the tracks.

In 2006, there were 521 trespasser deaths nationwide — up 12.5 percent from last year, according to the Federal Railroad Administration. In Ohio alone there were 24 deaths last year, an increase of 71.4 percent from 2005.

It is crucial that people know the danger and stay safe near the tracks, Francis said.

“We have worked with informing the public and the enforcement of the laws with city authorities in the past, and it has been successful,” he said.