Girl's accident highlights dangers of railroad tracks

(file photo)
Girl struck by train
Girl struck by train

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - A little girl from the west side of Indianapolis is recovering from a horrible accident.

11-year-old Breanna Brooks was hit by a train Monday after leaving school.

Late Tuesday afternoon, a Riley Hospital for Children spokesperson said the elementary school student is in critical, but stable, condition. She is facing a long and difficult recovery.

One of the many freight trains using the pair of tracks between Lynhurst Drive and Holt Road, south of Rockville Road, hit Brooks, severing one of her legs. About 20 minutes earlier, she was dismissed from the nearby Garden City Elementary School and her grandfather said she had taken the family's dog for a walk.

Breanna Brooks (Submitted photo)
Breanna Brooks (Submitted photo)

"We're all hopeful and, hopefully...she's going to make a great recovery. She's young, but, you know, she don't have a left leg," he said. "She made bad choice and this time it cost her her leg," he said.

Brooks says he's grounded Breanna before for walking along the tracks. He says his granddaughter was pulled beneath the train and dragged through the rocks, suffering a lot of serious bruises and scrapes, in addition to the loss of her leg, but she survived, which he says is a miracle.

She is facing more surgery Wednesday, but her grandfather said she is doing better. She realized Tuesday her left leg was gone.

Neighbors say it's not uncommon to see people of all ages walking along the tracks.

"I've seen kids probably 8 years old walking up there," said Don Haverly, who lives next to the railroad tracks. "Kids, grownups you name it. They go up and down all the time."

Statistics on the Indiana Operation Lifesaver website show that, nationwide, twice as many people are killed walking along railroad tracks than die in collisions at railroad crossings. Over the last couple of years In Indiana, the numbers are about even.

Jennifer Feder, the executive director of the railroad safety organization, said the problem is getting worse.

"We see it a lot near schools. We see it near colleges and universities, others, sometimes, are walking the way home from a bar," she explained.

In 2014, two women walking on a railroad bridge in Bloomington were run over by a train and miraculously survived to run away.

Increases in deaths and close calls are partly attributed to a new-found affection for the rails. A Google search for "people on railroad tracks" produced hundreds of selfies, prom, wedding, and other photos.

"We have been doing a lot of reaching out to photographers, making sure they are not taking senior pictures, wedding photos, on the tracks, reaching out to film crews," Feder said.

Even the Indiana State Fair is telling photographers it no longer accepting contest entries taken from or of people on railroad property.

"People need to realize that walking on railroad tracks is not only illegal, it is deadly," Feder said.

Trains, like airplanes, carry "black boxes." They record the speed of the train, when brakes are applied, what the engineer was saying, and other information. A camera at the head of the train records what the crew was seeing.

Perhaps that information will explain what occurred Monday afternoon.