Man struck, killed by train early Tuesday

Just before 1 a.m. Tuesday, a man identified by the Mesa County Coroner’s Office as 28-year-old Aaron David Rudder of Grand Junction was struck and killed by a train in the area of 31 1/2 Road in Clifton.

According to the preliminary investigation by the Mesa County Coroner’s Office and the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department, Rudder was last seen alive at DJ’s Road House, 3112 I-70 Business Loop, and was believed to be intoxicated. The specific determination of the manner of death is pending toxicology results, which will not be available for several weeks, the Coroner’s Office said Tuesday afternoon.

DJ’s Roadhouse owner Duane Clark said Rudder came into the bar between 9 and 10 p.m. Monday night. He said his bartender and courtesy van driver told him Rudder “seemed to have a bit of a buzz” when he arrived and that he ordered two pitchers of beer but only drank one of them.

Clark said employees sensed something wasn’t right with Rudder, who had been married about three months, because he was buying rounds of beer for all the women in the bar. Clark said employees and patrons offered Rudder, whom Clark described as coherent, a ride home when he left around 12:15 or 12:30 a.m., but Rudder refused to accept.

“I need to walk things off,” Clark quoted Rudder as saying.

Several minutes later, as Clark and other employees closed up and left, they saw the train stopped on the tracks and flashing police lights across I-70B. He said they remarked they hoped it didn’t have anything to do with Rudder.

But it did.

The Clifton Fire Department responded to the accident scene with a rescue truck, an ambulance and eight firefighters. After 10 minutes, the firefighters returned to the station.

The tracks were closed to train traffic in both directions until 4:45 a.m., said Tom Lange, spokesman for the Union Pacific Railroad.

The train that struck Rudder was pulling a variety of cars and goods, Lange said.

While emergency responders worked the scene, a westbound coal train was delayed for two hours, he said.

Walking on train tracks or crossing railroad tracks anywhere but at an established crossing is dangerous, Lange said.

“Anytime anybody’s on the tracks, it is a trespassing situation, it is a safety issue. Our message to everyone is:

Trains can’t stop quickly,” Lange said. “It can take up to a mile for a train to stop. A lot of people don’t understand how complicated and hard it is.”

According to the Federal Railroad Administration, trespassing on rails and alongside the tracks is the leading cause of rail-related fatalities in the United States. Approximately 500 trespassing deaths occur each year across the country, the railroad administration says.

The train’s engineer had no chance to stop the train in time, sheriff’s spokeswoman Heather Benjamin said.

“As soon as they saw a person in front of their train, they hit their emergency brakes,” she said.

Mike Wiggins contributed to this report.


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