Woman on tracks wore earbuds, didn’t react to train

A pedestrian who was struck and killed Saturday afternoon by an Amtrak train west of Silt was wearing earbuds and apparently didn’t turn around, feel the train approaching or hear its warning whistle, an investigator said.

Garfield County Deputy Coroner Lanny Grant said train engineers said the victim did not appear to realize the train was coming. Grant is awaiting video from Amtrak of the incident and toxicology results for the victim, Ashley Nicole Vale, 27, of Silt.

He said there was no evidence at the scene to suggest alcohol or substance abuse was involved. She died of multiple blunt force trauma.

Grant said Vale didn’t have identification with her, and authorities weren’t able to identify her until getting a fingerprint match Monday. Even then, they didn’t realize where she lived until learning Vale’s family, with whom she lived, had filed a missing-person report.

He said Vale told family Saturday she was going out for a walk. That was something she did frequently, so the family didn’t think much of it, Grant said.

He said there was no evidence of statements she made or other indications she may have wanted to end her life.

Grant said she was struck in an area where another train was parked on a second set of tracks, which may have helped muffle the sound of the approaching train.

Searchers weren’t able to find the device she was using with her earbuds, Grant said.

He said Amtrak estimated the train was traveling about 66 mph when the engineers spotted Vale and deployed emergency brakes and their whistle. None of the train’s 179 passengers was injured.

Grant said the engineer in charge of the Amtrak locomotive had worked more than 18 years without ever being involved with a pedestrian fatality. But the second engineer had experienced seven such incidents in 32 years.

“It’s more common than we think, unfortunately, for whatever the circumstances are,” Grant said.

He said Amtrak is giving the engineers counseling and time off.

“It’s a tough thing for them. When they realize what’s going to happen unless the person realizes they’re in danger (in order) to make an evasive effort to get off the track, there’s not much they can do,” he said.


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