FERNDALE - A freight train passing through Ferndale struck and killed an unidentified man Monday, June 30, on a bridge over the Nooksack River.
Police called the death an apparent suicide.
A shirtless man in his late 30s or 40s stood facing north at 4:50 p.m. on the north end of the railroad bridge that's parallel to Main Street. The conductor of a southbound BNSF train saw him and blasted the train whistle three or four times, witnesses said. The conductor and the man made eye contact. But the man wouldn't move, said Ferndale Police Sgt. Kevin Davis.
On impact he was thrown about 30 feet from the bridge down to the steep riverbank, where his body landed partly in the water.
Davis - who had been on patrol downtown - arrived within about a minute but by then the man had died. Police did not recognize him. They found nothing in his jeans pockets except keys and a broken cellphone.
The man hadn't been identified as of Monday evening. He's described as white, about 5-foot-10 and 200 pounds. An autopsy will be performed in an effort to figure out his identity.
One family, watching from the fountains on the other side of Main Street, said just before the man got hit it looked like he'd been running north to get off of the bridge as quickly as possible. But all other witnesses and the conductor said the man stood still, Davis said.
The man had been directly above Front Avenue, on the side of the road closest to the river, police said. So he could have jumped down about 10 feet from the tracks to the street, or at least to the sloped riverbank. The Nooksack moved lazily Monday.
After the man was hit, the train stopped for hours, blocking Second Avenue downtown. Cars on Main Street backed up past Interstate 5, turning a five-minute drive through town into a half-hour trip.