A recent Tuloso-Midway graduate was killed last week after being hit by a train near Labonte Park.
Deputy Constable Willie Blalock with the Precinct 1 Constable's office said 18-year-old Ashley Jurica, a 2007 graduate of Tuloso-Midway High School, was walking northbound on railroad tracks on the Nueces River Bridge with three other male teenagers the afternoon of Oct. 23. Blalock said the four were just being normal teenagers and "hanging out on the bridge" when they were alerted to the presence of the train, which was owned by Union Pacific Railroad.
"They were just goofing off, playing around and watching the water," he said. "One of them heard the train whistle and they started running."
Joe Arbona, a spokesperson for Union Pacific, said that at about 4:25 p.m., the train was heading northbound and coming off a curve when the engineer and conductor, who remain unnamed, saw the teens.
"They couldn't make out what they had ahead of them and then they saw the four people on the tracks, so they began to sound their horn and went into braking mode," Arbona said.
But even though the train began slowing down in order to avoid the teens, Arbona said the crew had to also make sure they didn't cause a derailment by braking too fast.
"It can take anywhere from a mile to a mile and a half for a train to stop, even at a slow speed," Arbona said.
Blalock said two of the male teenagers ran southbound and managed to jump clear of the tracks before the train reached them. But Jurica and her boyfriend, who was not named, ran northbound.
Blalock said the boyfriend jumped down onto a concrete pillar below the bridge and tried to pull her with him when Jurica was struck by the train and thrown into the water below.
"He had her hand and all of a sudden she was pulled out of his grasp," Blalock added.
Jurica's boyfriend would eventually pull her body to shore while another teen called for help, but Blalock said it's likely Jurica died instantaneously from the collision.
The accident and the death of the former T-M student, Arbona said, has left the train's crew in shock and anguish, even though the black box recorder showed they followed every procedure correctly to stop the train.
"The crew was extremely distraught over this, so we sent them on leave for a few days," Arbona said.
Jurica was buried over the weekend, but Union Pacific officials are hoping the teenager's tragic story has some impact on others who might be tempted to stroll near or on railroad tracks in the future.
"These are very heavy trains and they can't stop on a dime," Arbona said. "All they can do is pray that it stops or (the walker or walkers) get out of the way. The best way to avoid it is to please stay off."
If anyone sees suspicious activity, such as someone walking on or near the railroad tracks, they are asked to call (888) 877-7267.