Crime

Girlfriend: Bellingham man killed by train had hearing loss

Bellingham firefighters and paramedics load a man later identified as Jacob Allen Davis, 30, into an ambulance after he was hit by a BNSF freight train near Roeder Avenue in Bellingham Wednesday afternoon , May 13, 2015. Davis died later that night.
Bellingham firefighters and paramedics load a man later identified as Jacob Allen Davis, 30, into an ambulance after he was hit by a BNSF freight train near Roeder Avenue in Bellingham Wednesday afternoon , May 13, 2015. Davis died later that night. The Bellingham Herald

A Bellingham man killed by a freight train while listening to headphones had hearing loss, and often turned up the volume to full blast, his girlfriend said Thursday, May 14.

Jacob Allen Davis, 30, had been on his way home from work at Trident Seafoods, 2825 Roeder Ave., where he and his girlfriend, Jada Leigh Mahugh, worked for the past three weeks.

On Wednesday afternoon, as the work day ended, Mahugh stopped to use the bathroom, and Davis left for home. He might have been walking fast to catch up to her, thinking she’d already started walking home without him, Mahugh said.

“It was the one time I wasn’t with him, and when I’m not with him, he had his headphones in,” she said.

Police said Davis walked east on the railroad ties, just to the left of the rails, along Roeder Avenue. A BNSF freight train conductor saw Davis, dressed in black, and sounded the train whistle several times around 4 p.m. Davis did not react. The crew hit the emergency brakes but a cattle guard forced Davis off the track near Bellwether Way. The train did not stop until it was eight car lengths past him. Davis suffered massive trauma to his skull but still had a pulse when firefighters loaded him into the ambulance. He died shortly thereafter at the hospital.

Davis and Mahugh, 29, were fresh hires at Trident, his girlfriend said. They’d met about seven years ago as neighbors in an apartment complex on Texas Street. Both had dysfunctional marriages and when hers ended in divorce, Mahugh said, “he decided that he wasn’t going to let me fall again.” They’d been together for the past two years. For more than half of that time they were homeless, couch surfing or sleeping in motels, while her ex-husband moved to Montana with the three young boys from that marriage.

“I grieved the loss of my children as if they were dead, and Jacob walked me through it,” Mahugh said. “He showed me a thing that some people don’t ever get, an extreme and unconditional love.”

Due to a poor rental history, they struggled to find housing. But eventually, they did. She won custody of the kids, who stay with their grandfather and who had started to refer to Davis as “dad.” Mahugh and Davis hoped to move into house of their own, with the kids, in the coming months.

They’d been doing temp work through Manpower until Davis got the seafood processing job. He convinced his boss that Mahugh was a hard worker, too. She was hired on to work the same 40-hour shift. Their first paycheck was due Friday, May 15. Each day at 5 a.m. they left home, a room in a shared house off Cornwall Avenue, to walk to work together. Once they finished their shift — cutting fins and collars from fish — they took a shortcut north of the railroad tracks, an uphill path by a drainage pipe, in a rush to get home to wash off the smell of sweat and dead fish.

“He wasn’t just some dumb guy walking along the tracks,” Mahugh said.

Davis could not hear well out of his in his right ear, she said, and often he needed to ask people to repeat themselves. He would listen to his favorite bands — Insane Clown Posse, Collective Soul, 3 Doors Down — at an extremely high volume. He had a diehard love of music, Mahugh said. For the past week, he’d been obsessed with Steely Dan.

He’d sing to her each day.

“We lived a very quiet life together. He wanted nothing more than to build a family,” she said. “He’d finally found what he wanted, and he was gung ho about it.”

On Thursday morning, friends of Davis set up a memorial page on Facebook.

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