UPDATE: Woman dead after couple hit by train in Kennewick (w/video)

Tri-City HeraldOctober 21, 2013 

— A motorist passing by a train collision Monday in Kennewick that left a woman dead tried to save her boyfriend’s life by tying a tourniquet around his mostly severed arm.

Joshua Durham, 31, was driving on Canal Drive near Volland Street when he saw Samuel W. Frank walking up from the tracks, his arm barely attached to his body, he said.

“I slammed on the brakes, ran up, took my belt off and threw it around his arm,” Durham said. “I tried to stem the blood. He was saying ‘my girlfriend, my girlfriend is on the tracks.’”

Durham tightened the belt and ran down to the tracks to see if he could help the woman, he said.

“She was obviously gone,” Durham said. “It was pretty gruesome ... I just tried to keep other people from having to go up to see it.”

Frank, 47, of Kennewick, had been walking along the tracks with his girlfriend and their dog, a boxer named Star, when they were hit by a BNSF Railway train at 4:09 p.m., officials said.

Authorities don’t know why they were trespassing on the tracks.

The woman, who has not yet been identified, was killed on impact and her body was found under the train, said Sgt. Ken Lattin, Kennewick police spokesman.

Frank was taken to Trios Health, formerly Kennewick General Hospital. His condition was not available Monday night. Star was not injured.

A friend of the couple, Roni Rios, told the Herald shortly before Frank was identified that they came to her house Monday afternoon to pick up the dog. The 60-year-old had been watching Star because the couple can’t have animals at their place, she said.

“I already know it is them,” Rios said in between sobs. “I know in my heart it is them. They were such sweet people. (She) is with God now.”

Frank and his girlfriend routinely took the dog for walks near the tracks, Rios said. When she stepped off the bus after 4 p.m. and saw the train stopped, she feared something bad had happened to her friends. She hadn’t heard from them since they left her house.

“They didn’t come back from their walk,” she said. “I knew something was wrong.”

The two crew members on the train saw the couple sitting on the tracks moments before the collision, said Gus Melonas, BNSF spokesman. They applied the train’s emergency brake and sounded its whistle.

The crew saw the couple try and get off the tracks before they were hit, Melonas said. No one on the train was injured.

The train was going 44 mph when it hit the couple, Melonas said. The speed limit on the track is 49 mph.

“We can’t encourage the public enough that trains move on any track, at any time, in any direction,” Melonas said.

The train — which departed from Longview on BNSF’s Stampede Pass route and was headed to Nilend, Minn. — was pulling 112 empty grain cars, Melonas said. The route goes through Pasco and connects the Tri-Cities with the Puget Sound area. Anywhere between six and 10 trains travel on it daily.

BNSF was scheduled to reopen the section of tracks where the couple was hit on Monday night, Melonas said.

The couple were the third and fourth people to be hit on the Stampede Route this year, Melonas said. Two people were killed earlier this year in Yakima.

The couple were also the fourth and fifth people to be hit by a train in Washington in the past two weeks, Melonas said. Three of those people have died.

Authorities expect to release the name of the woman after the Benton County Coroner positively identifies her body and notifies her next of kin, Lattin said.

Tyler Richardson: 582-1556; trichardson@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @Ty_richardson

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