A female pedestrian who was hit and killed by a light-rail train Sunday morning may not have seen or heard the train because she was wearing headphones, transit officials said.
The accident happened about 10:15 a.m. near the Westgate station, just a few yards east of SE. Bedford Street near the border between Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Metro Transit official Bruce Howard said the woman, who appeared to be about 40, walked up the concrete ramp to the station and tried to cross the tracks at the station’s crosswalk. But despite the flashing red warning lights, a flashing sign and bells, the woman stepped directly into the path of the eastbound Green Line train.
Although the train operator tried to apply the brakes, the train wasn’t able to stop in time. Howard said that by the time emergency personnel arrived, the woman was dead.
About 40 people were on the train headed east to the Minnesota State Fair and downtown St. Paul when the accident happened. They were put on a bus to continue their trips.
Rider Sujan Mathur was in the front of the train when “all of a sudden, the train extremely and abruptly stopped,” he said, adding that police arrived quickly and tried without success to revive the woman.
The victim’s body was blocked from the view of pedestrians by Metro Transit police vehicles until it was taken from the scene shortly before noon by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s office. The train pulled away shortly after noon, driven by an operator who had been called in to move the train.
“A lot of people run for this train, when there’s another train in 10 minutes,” said the operator, who didn’t want to give his name.
He said it takes a train going 35 miles per hour about 300 feet to come to a full stop.
Service on the Green Line was disrupted until shortly after 12:30 p.m. Before then, buses were brought in to fill the gap between the Prospect Park and Raymond Avenue stations.
The train’s operator in Sunday’s incident will take drug tests, which is standard procedure.
Sunday’s incident was the first fatality on the Green Line light rail route since it began operating on June 14. Howard said there have been 13 “minor” incidents on the route.
Last Monday afternoon, a man was hit by a westbound Green Line train and injured at the intersection of University Avenue and Chatsworth Street in St. Paul.
A preliminary investigation by Metro Transit police found that the pedestrian, who was not identified, was illegally walking between the eastbound and westbound tracks. His injuries were not critical.
Howard said that Metro Transit cautions its riders to avoid wearing headphones, talking on cellphones or texting while around trains.
“Safety is a shared responsibility,” he said, “and we certainly want to make sure that anyone running, walking or doing business around the trains is extra careful. We want to make sure people are aware of their surroundings.”
Howard said Metro Transit’s safety engineers investigate each incident “to see if there’s anything we can do differently. We’re always looking at how we can make it safer. It’s a shared responsibility.”
The most recent fatality, on the Hiawatha Avenue Blue Line, was June 20 at the intersection of E. 35th Street in Minneapolis. Transit officials said then that 11 people had been killed by light-rail trains since they began running in Minneapolis a decade ago. Most were pedestrians; a few involved people who drove around lowered stop-arms and tried to beat the trains across the tracks.