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South Neighborhoods
Bicyclist hit, killed by train in Versailles

Monday, May 26, 2003

By Gary Rotstein, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

A female bicyclist crossing railroad tracks in Versailles was struck and killed by a train yesterday afternoon.

Samantha Bouchard, 24, of McKeesport, was pronounced dead at the scene after the 3:15 p.m. incident.

She was trying to cross tracks on Juniper Street at First Street, where train traffic activates flashing lights but no swinging gate or arm to block vehicles.

Bouchard may have been using the Yough bicycle trail, which passes through the community, said Dave Obley, chief of Versailles Volunteer Fire Co. No. 1.

He said two trains apparently passed the Juniper Street crossing in opposite directions at the same time.

"There was a train heading eastbound on the tracks, and she was waiting for the train to clear," Obley said. "We're assuming that once it cleared, she started across and never heard the westbound train coming."

He was among a group of firefighters marching at the same time in the Versailles Memorial Day parade just a few blocks away.

They arrived at the crossing within two minutes of the borough's emergency siren activating, and Obley said he and paramedics both attempted to revive Bouchard.

CSX Railroad spokesman Gary Sease said trains are permitted to travel up to 40 mph through the area, but he was uncertain how fast the freight train was traveling at the time.

The crew stopped and gave interviews to police investigators, but Sease said he had no details of what they said.

He said the train, which was headed from Philadelphia to Chicago with two locomotives and 55 cars, was one of about a dozen using the tracks yesterday.

Holiday weekend traffic was light, he said, compared with the 25 trains a day normally passing through the area.

Obley noted that some area residents had expressed concern about whether the crossing was safe, but he said authorities knew of no serious incidents there in the past 20 years

"We have two crossings in town, and that's the safer of the two," the chief said.

Gary Rotstein can be reached at grotstein@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1255.

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