After Dave Thornton saw a 9-year-old boy crawl from a train accident Thursday near his St. Paul home, he quickly went back to search the tracks for what had been lost.
That’s when he spotted what remained of the boy’s feet, which had been severed by a passing freight train. Thornton took off his shirt to gather what he could, hoping that the boy might still be able to run, jump and do the things that little boys do.
But Friday the condition of the boy, Marshawn Kenneth Farr-Robinson, at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare in St. Paul was unclear since his family was asking for privacy.
“With a train you don’t get any second chances,” Thornton said, as yet another train rolled on the tracks behind his house.
Thornton, 54, said he was in his back yard about 5:30 p.m. Thursday when his 13-year-old son noticed a child close to the tracks. Thornton said the boy appeared to be trying to jump onto the ladder of a slow-moving train and made several tries before falling.
Thornton rode his bike a few blocks near Farrington Street and W. Ivy Avenue, where there is a break in the dense brush lining the tracks, and saw the boy crawling out of the weeds with his feet missing.
Despite his injuries, the boy was remarkably calm and seemed more worried about people trying to get in touch with his mother than anything else, he said.
“I couldn’t believe how courageous he was. He had the presence of mind to go and find help,” Thornton said.
Amanda McCulloch, 37, who lives next door to Marshawn’s family and whose kids play with him, called him “a typical 9-year-old boy.”
“We’ve had a lot of big feelings at our house today just knowing that the life of a neighbor and a playmate has changed permanently,” she said.
Neighbors such as Barb Evertz, 56, who has lived in her house for more than a decade, said people cross the nearby tracks often.
“It’s an ongoing thing. You know when the trains are blowing their horns louder that somebody is on the tracks,” she said.
Evertz said that perhaps the tracks need to be fenced off.
“In the end, you know, kids are kids,” McCulloch said. “They’re going to take some of those risks sometimes whether it’s appropriate to do so or not.”
Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) owns the tracks and has no-trespassing signage in place in the area, said Amy McBeth, a railroad spokeswoman. Witnesses said the freight train belonged to Canadian Pacific, but that railroad was unable to confirm Friday whether that was the case.
St. Paul police don’t believe foul play was involved, and the BNSF will be conducting its own investigation into the incident. Railway tracks are dangerous, McBeth said.
“This is just a very tragic reminder of why people need to stay away from railroad tracks,” she said.