CHATHAM—A local man died as a result of injuries he suffered when he was hit by a CSX freight train at the Main Street crossing in the village, Monday, July 20 at 7:53 p.m.
William E. Weaver, 59, of Chatham was crossing the train tracks from Hudson Avenue to Main Street headed north, when he was hit by the westbound freight train, according to Chatham Police Chief Kevin Boehme, whose department was summoned to the scene along with Chatham firefighters and the Chatham Rescue Squad.
Chief Boehme told The Columbia Paper Tuesday that he could “confidently” say that Mr. Weaver did not intentionally step in front of the train, “based on our investigation, there are no indications that was the case.”
Chatham firefighters and rescue squad members treated Mr. Weaver at the side of the tracks, where he was thrown upon impact with the train. The squad then took him by ambulance to Columbia Memorial Hospital, where he died at 8:30 p.m.
Following an autopsy in Albany Tuesday, Columbia County Coroner Angelo Nero said, Mr. Weaver died of a broken neck.
The coroner said the autopsy shed no light on why Mr. Weaver did not make it across the tracks in time on this particular evening.
Mr. Weaver may have had a brain injury or a hearing problem connected with a prior motorcycle accident,said the coroner, but that his death was “an unfortunate accident. Mr. Weaver had crossed the tracks many times, he lived right next to it.”
Mr. Weaver lived alone. He had family members who often looked in on him and he had lived near the tracks for some length of time, according to the coroner.
The train engineer saw Mr. Weaver crossing the tracks and stopped the train in a relatively short distance, said Chief Boehme, adding, “that engineer did a hell of a job stopping that train.”
As police chief for the past 34 years, Chief Boehme said he has walked up to a half mile from the where a collision occurred to where the train actually stopped.
This train was 5,500 feet long, and was made up of 93 or 94 cars. It came to halt in less than 1,000 feet, said the chief, who believes the last train/pedestrian accident happened at the Woodbridge Avenue crossing “at least 20 years ago.”
The railroad crossing was closed until 11 p.m.
Chatham firefighters were back in service at 10:23p.m.
The incident remains under investigation by Chatham Police, Coroner Nero and CSX. A call to CSX was not returned by press deadline. State Police assisted at the scene.
Village residents are used to trains signaling with their air horns as they approach the three main crossings in the village, but several people who live near the crossing agreed that this train had blown its whistle at a greater volume and with more blasts than usual.
Those signals were followed by a loud banging sound as the train came to a halt less than 100 yards down the track from where the incident occurred. Trains are supposed to travel at 30 mph or less through the village.
Pavement at the crossing was recently upgraded as part of a state roadwork project in the village, and the crossing is equipped with automated barriers for both vehicles and pedestrians in addition to a bell and flashing lights when a train approaches.
To contact Diane Valden email