Edmonds police were interviewing witnesses Tuesday afternoon in an effort to piece together what led to the pedestrian fatality that occurred on the Edmonds train tracks around noon Tuesday. The victim was positively identified as a 43-year-old male from Wichita, Kansas, Edmonds police spokesman Sgt. Josh McClure said.
Railroad crossings at both Dayton and Main Streets were blocked for about three hours following the incident. Edmonds-Kingston ferry service was also temporarily suspended; Washington State Ferries temporarily rerouted ferries to the Coleman Dock in Seattle.
Witnesses say that victim was on the tracks next to the Amtrak loading platform when he was struck by the train. “I’m not sure if that was accidentally [or] intentionally,” McClure said. “We’re still trying to sort this all out.” Eyewitnesses saw the entire incident and are working with detectives, he said.
The incident blocked the only access points to and from the Edmonds waterfront, leaving those visiting the popular beach or off-leash dog park as well as and business owners and their customers stranded on the waterfront side. In addition, first responders were called to a few minor medical emergencies along the waterfront during the train blockage, which required them to crawl through an open rail car to get to the west side of the train tracks so they could evaluate patients.
Among the emergencies were a young boy who fell and split his lip, needing medical attention, and a pregnant woman due to give birth, McClure said.
Police worked with BNSF officials to obtain permission to use the open railroad car, ensuring first that the train would not move, he said.
“It’s extremely challenging for us,” McClure said. “There’s a lot of people who don’t know what happened or why this shutdown has occurred, so there’s frustrations boiling over, which is completely understandable. We’re trying to educate them as best we can that this isn’t just a broken down car; this is a serious incident but we understand that people are trying to get along with their lives.”
“We’re doing our best to maintain our primary focus on the scene itself and our secondary focus is on the safety and well-being of those surrounding it,” he said.
In addition to ensuring that first responders can safely get across the tracks, police also were helping pedestrians stranded on the waterfront to get to the other side. McClure estimating that about 100 people were assisted in getting through the open rail car.
The train was held at the scene until the Snohomish County Medical Examiner finished their investigation, and both crossings were opened up just before 3 p.m. The medical examiner’s office will issue a formal determination of cause and manner of death, McClure said.
Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling called the fatality “very sad,” adding that his thoughts go out to the victim’s family. And the mayor also said that the incident points to urgency of work being conducted by a mayor-appointed task force to develop solutions for providing emergency access during train blockages.
— By Teresa Wippel with reporting by Larry Vogel and Natalie Covate