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Here’s why two trains had unexpected stops in Bellingham early Monday

Stop at railroad crossings - because trains can’t

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Federal Railroad Administration have launched a new railroad crossing safety ad campaign, the latest in a two-year effort to reverse the uptick in railroad crossing fatalities.
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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Federal Railroad Administration have launched a new railroad crossing safety ad campaign, the latest in a two-year effort to reverse the uptick in railroad crossing fatalities.

Two trains reportedly had to stop early Monday, Aug. 19, after seeing a woman close enough to the Burlington Northern Santa Fe tracks in Bellingham that train conductors feared hitting her.

According to the Bellingham police logs, officers responded to assist another agency for a reported suspicious circumstance at 1:45 a.m. in the 800 block of Roeder Avenue. According to emergency radio broadcasts at the time, a conductor of a northbound BNSF train feared the train had hit a pedestrian near the intersection of Central and Roeder avenues.

Bellingham police Lt. Claudia Murphy told The Bellingham Herald that the conductor of the train saw a woman near the tracks and stopped to make sure no one was hit.

Officers, Whatcom County Sheriff’s deputies and the conductor all checked the length of the train both physically and using thermal imaging equipment, but nobody was located, Murphy said. No evidence that anybody had been hit was found.

Several hours later, at 3:01 a.m., police were again notified of a train making an emergency stop due to seeing a woman close enough to the tracks that she was almost hit, Murphy said. The train conductor pointed officers toward the woman, who was then in the tree line.

Murphy said officers spoke to the woman and determined that she also was the pedestrian seen by the first train. She was not hit by either train and was not injured, Murphy said.

The woman was taken into protective custody and was transported to the hospital for care, Murphy said.

BNSF spokesperson Gus Melonas told The Herald that railroad police are continuing to look into the incidents.

According to the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission, there have been 11 train-related fatalities in Washington State in 2019 — eight of them involving trespassing. A Bellingham bicyclist was killed in a grade-crossing incident March 26 when he was struck by an Amtrak passenger train while crossing F Street.

David Rasbach joined The Bellingham Herald in 2005 and now covers breaking news. He has been an editor and writer in several western states since 1994.
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