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.
“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 email@example.com or 541-812-6077.