A college student and Army National Guard medic fell on railroad tracks and was fatally struck by a freight train early Sunday in Winona, authorities said.
Winona State University identified the victim as student Derek Bute, 25, of Alden in south-central Minnesota.
Bute fell about 1:20 a.m. at the Huff Street rail crossing on the southwest edge of campus, according to police. The Canadian Pacific train that hit him was heading from Vancouver, B.C., to Chicago, a spokesman for the railway said.
Based on preliminary information, CP spokesman Andy Cummings said "it appears the train crew sounded the horn. … It can take a train a mile or more to come to a complete stop."
Bute was an exercise science major and started at WSU in fall 2012, the school said. Roommate Zach Prough said Bute was scheduled to graduate in May. Classes resumed last Monday for spring semester.
Alex Schultz, a friend and fellow military man in Winona, said Bute was out with two other people at a tavern downtown and walking toward Schultz's house at the time.
Schultz, a sergeant in the Army Reserve, said Bute served overseas in the Middle East and "planned on becoming a medical officer. He really enjoyed his time there and the guys he was with."
While serving in Kuwait in 2012, Bute sought to reassure his friends and family back home that he was staying safe.
He explained in a military-produced video that he was helping record a flag football game at the camp to show the families back home "some of the fun stuff we are able to do … it's really hard for the families to understand what we do here. It's really hard to keep them from worrying about us."
Along with being a sergeant in the Guard and having served at least one tour overseas, Bute was a mentor in a community human services agency program for special-needs youth, Prough said.
"He would leave early in the morning to get them on the bus, and then hang out with them after school and do activities," said Prough, who met Bute a few years ago when they both worked at a liquor store in town.
Prough described Bute as "always active and very into his studies. He loved going to the gym and hanging out with friends."
Denise McDowell, vice president for enrollment and student life at Winona State, said in a statement that "Derek was a valued member of our community of learners. As we come together for the spring semester, I ask that you keep Derek and his family in your thoughts, and I encourage you to reach out to those who may be in pain and support one another during this difficult time."