Close calls at Queen Avenue crossing; bicyclist identified

2014-01-26T00:00:00Z Close calls at Queen Avenue crossing; bicyclist identifiedBy Kyle Odegard, Albany Democrat-Herald Albany Democrat Herald
January 26, 2014 12:00 am  • 

A switchyard worker who witnessed a train hit and kill a bicyclist Friday afternoon — and called 911 to report the incident — said he sees close calls “daily” at Queen Avenue, despite crossing arms meant  to keep people away from the tracks.

Police identified the man who was killed as Joshua Lovato, 18, of Albany.

Aaron Francis, 40, of Lebanon, an engineer for Portland & Western Railroad, said Lovato rode around the crossing arms and went in front of a northbound Union Pacific freight train.

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“Sometimes as soon as the gate activates, people are mad. For whatever reason, people aren’t thinking about their safety. They’re just in a hurry,” Francis said.

He added that he’s seen as many as 10 people an hour “run the gates.”

The fatal crash occurred at about 1:50 p.m. on Friday on Queen Avenue, just east of Pacific Boulevard. 

Another bicyclist made it across the tracks in the nick of time, Francis said.

Albany Police Department Lt. Brad Liles said intoxicants did not appear to be a factor in the death. Headphones were found on the track, however.

Francis said the victim was dragged by the train in front of railroad crews and several motorists.

“It was very traumatic,” he added.

Francis said this was the first death he has witnessed in 18 years of railroading.

Along with the close calls at the crossing, Francis sees plenty of ire directed at rail workers.

“People are impatient. We are routinely harassed, badgered. We get the yelling. We get the horn honking,” he said. 

He doesn’t want to be the guy making people late for work or wherever it is they’re going.

But he has a job to do. And the trains keep rolling into Albany.

Kyle Odegard covers public safety for the Democrat-Herald. He can be contacted at kyle.odegard@lee.net or 541-812-6077.

Kyle Odegard covers public safety for the D-H. He can be contacted at 541-812-6077 or kyle.odegard@lee.net.

Copyright 2016 Albany Democrat Herald. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(23) Comments

  1. glassdogangle
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    glassdogangle - January 29, 2014 2:51 pm
    Steps to crossing tracks on bike when arms are down: 1) Look around for any police cars or other official-looking vehicles (if you see one, attempting to cross may get you a ticket) 2) Do not rely on your ears to detect trains, do so visually only (the loud sound of a close train may mask the sound of another about to speed past) 3) Always assume there is another train on parallel tracks BEHIND the one you are about to cross in front of (blind spot). Do these things and you can have many safe, enjoyable, time-saving crossings!
  2. RRGUY
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    RRGUY - January 27, 2014 5:46 pm
    I am a railroad worker that works this section of tracks, and can say without a doubt Queen Ave is the worst crossing between Portland and Eugene for near misses. I would personally like to see this crossing removed.
  3. akfhogger
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    akfhogger - January 26, 2014 7:32 pm
    I would like to express my condolences and sorrow to Joshua's family and friends. As a community member and witness to Friday's accident I share your grief.
    It's unfortunate that what should have been an out-pouring of sympathy for the loss of a young man turned into finger-pointing and hen-pecking on this thread; I suppose that's a side effect of communicating like this.
    In the end, nothing can stop people from doing what Joshua did expect themselves. I've seen places where 10 ft concrete walls and security fences have been poured and built along railroad rights-of-way and people show up with bolt-cutters and ropes to get through and over them. Joshua didn't do any of that, of course but his decision was a leaned behavior; his parents certainly didn't teach their son to ride around crossing gates. He, like many others at Queen Ave. have watched folks do the same thing countless times and get away with it. Case in point, seconds before Josh attempted to cross an older adult bicyclist did the same thing and made it... barely. I noticed he didn't stick around to help or answer questions that day.
    I haven't been able to quit thinking of Joshua or of his loved ones. I sincerely hope that the crew of that train, my other railroad co-workers, emergency personel and community witnesses will be able to recover from their grief; I hope Joshua's family and friends will be able to heal and move forward in his honor with the help of a respectful community.
  4. peggysiouxb
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    peggysiouxb - January 26, 2014 5:01 pm
    My Grandson Josh Derr was best friends with Josh Lavato ever since they were in grade school, We alway's found it charming that they were both named Josh, the spent many days & nights together, skating, swimming, camping, & of course chasing girls,
    Josh L, was like and extra kid in my daughter's house, he called her Mom, He has Josh D. tagged as his brother on facebook, The granddaughters just thought of him as another brother, They are grieving too, as are all Josh L's other friends,
    They all got together that night about 30 of them, some hadn't seen each other since 6th or 7th grade, & they talked, hugged & comforted each other, They swapped lavato stories, some funny, all endearing, They miss him dearly, They will never forget him,
    Josh D & Josh L were part of each other's lives for many years Now Josh D has to learn to go on alone, yes he has other friends, yes he has a family who loves him dearly, But Josh L was his chosen Brother they chose each other many years ago on the grade school playground.
    Josh D is worried about Josh L's Father & Mother, He know they must be grieving so hard for their son, they're hearts are broken, He will do anything in his power to help them in their time of grief, I want Josh L's parents to know they did good, They're son was so very very loved by so many friends, He was a sweetheart, very funny, & he has carved so many memories in so many hearts, Thank You Joshua Lavato, Thank you for being such a good, loving, & a true friend to my Grandson, You will live in his heart forever,
    Peggy Sue Berg...
  5. Beavs28
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    Beavs28 - January 26, 2014 11:49 am
    To get mad or chose to ignore a safety device is no excuse. If you don't want to wait find a different route. It's not the railroads fault that they have a job to do.
  6. CentralOR
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    CentralOR - January 26, 2014 10:46 am
    To the comment by Gothic Albany about the sign used to be posted with the phone numbers to call.

    Blockage of Public Crossings
    Until recently, the State of Oregon regulated the length of time a railroad may block a public highway-rail crossing. An Oregon Court of Appeals ruling determined that federal law preempted the State from continuing this practice. So, the State of Oregon can no longer control public crossings that are blocked by trains.

  7. Gothic Albany
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    Gothic Albany - January 26, 2014 10:31 am
    MedicineWoman, those tracks were there long before Queen Ave existed. Southern Pacific gave an easement right to the City of Albany to allow crossing of their property. They have the legal right to switch cars on their own property for as long as they want. The signs came down because they were illogical and unenforceable. They do not have a power trip, they have a job to do on their own property.
  8. MedicineWoman
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    MedicineWoman - January 26, 2014 1:09 am
    If the Queen Ave crossing wasn't tied up for 20 minutes at a time several times a day, people wouldn't get so impatient and take the chances they do. There are breaks where the Engineer could stop a minute and let traffic clear but NO, they continue on with their power trip of blocking the intersection and pissing people off. There used to be a sign up that said, "if this intersection has been blocked more than 10 minutes, call" everyone got cell phones and the sign came down. Railroad folks ... you can do better than that, treat people as you'd like to be treated!

    Prayers for comfort to all involved, including witnesses and family members - PTSD is rough, be easy on yourself. Grieving is no fun, but necessary. Blessings.
  9. gabriellemiller
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    gabriellemiller - January 25, 2014 8:28 pm

    Someone loses their life and some of you people are on here talking about lesson learned that's sick you should be ashamed of yourselfs. I'm sorry for your loss if I could make it better I would :( may you rest in peace. You were to0 young to pass.

  10. Mizztrisha
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    Mizztrisha - January 25, 2014 4:10 pm
    I have an 18 year old and it doesn't matter the situation, a life was taken, a family is suffering and all I see on here is LESSONS LEARNED! ! This town makes me sick. Idk the name of the family but I'm so so so sorry for your loss. You are in my heart and prayers. May God be with you.
  11. jasonp
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    jasonp - January 25, 2014 3:06 pm
    So reading these comments he was 18, well old enough to know that the cross arms mean stop and that there is a freakin train coming. you can't win against a train. yes this is sad yes I feel for his family. too young to go but old enough to know. I am sorry for everyones loss u just hope this tragedy is a lesson. one that should not have to be learned this way but a lesson non the less. again I am sorry for your loss.
  12. HLB
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    HLB - January 25, 2014 1:22 pm
    stupidity is not knowing the facts and then making comments on it. Where you there sir? Did you know this child? How dare you say such horrible things in the midst of such a tragedy. You've made yourself the idiot here!!!!!!!
  13. AuntB
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    AuntB - January 25, 2014 11:51 am
    Generaston, You may have been taught consequences that have helped you live to be over 50 but there are several lesson in life that you have missed. Simple things like "There is a time and place for things" or "If you can't say something nice don't say anything at all". At this point in time friends and family are only hurt by you soapbox rants.
  14. cebb16
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    cebb16 - January 25, 2014 10:33 am
    I am so sorry for your loss. It is so tragic and my heart breaks for his mother and family. Young people sometimes make quick decisions. Just like when a young person runs in the street maybe thinking they had time to get across and are hit by a car. Everyone can make a quick and poor decision. That's not the freaking point. The point is this is a person a young person who deserves to be remembered with love and care period.
  15. jasonjones
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    jasonjones - January 25, 2014 10:09 am
    I hope the mother of this child never reads your comment
  16. jasonjones
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    jasonjones - January 25, 2014 10:04 am
    This was my girlfriend best friend son. Imagine it was your soon then make these callus comments. As far as I'm concerned you are all heartless. This was a young man's life. I pray you never experience this loss. You should pray for forgiveness.
  17. generaston
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    generaston - January 25, 2014 9:09 am

    Alright a little wisdom to pass on to you young folks. If you think it can't happen, it can. If you think it won't happen, it will. And there is NOTHING your friends and family can do to make you use this lesson. If you don't then THEY are the ones that suffer.

  18. Me
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    Me - January 25, 2014 8:45 am
    Although it is sad, I do agree with UncleJr. If he wouldn't have tried to bypass the crossing arms, he would still be alive.
  19. mvigil9
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    mvigil9 - January 25, 2014 7:44 am
    Nobody truly knows the full story or turn of events that lead to this heart wrenching tragedy. What I do know is that the family of this 18yr boy is devastated and we miss him already. Reading such insensitive comments about someone who just started his life is disgusting to me. For a small town I would hope that people can come together and pray for his soul and the families its affected. RIP my loving cousin, we will never be the same.
  20. Lace
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    Lace - January 25, 2014 7:28 am
    Heartbreakingly sad. That was somebody's relative that got dragged 500 feet under a train. Hope to God they died on impact. RIP, impatient soul
  21. cebb16
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    cebb16 - January 25, 2014 6:54 am
    Wow you told him! Yep he learned his lesson! He is now gone forever lesson learned. He was someone's friend, son maybe father, brother. Have some compassion I am sure you have made mistakes in life. This one cost this man his life. I pray for his family and friends.
  22. Kevin
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    Kevin - January 24, 2014 4:12 pm
    It is still SAD, he was still a Human Being !!!
  23. UncleJr
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    UncleJr - January 24, 2014 3:42 pm
    Those crossing arms are there for a good reason. It means don't cross. Just because you see an engine backing up doesn't mean there isn't an Amtrack barreling through on the other set of tracks. I guess this guy just learned this lesson the hard way.
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