Woman dies after being struck by train

SANDPOINT — An Alabama woman died early Thursday morning after she was struck by a southbound train.

Erin M. Likkel, 28, of Huntsville, Ala., was killed at about 2:50 a.m. after she was struck by a BNSF Railway freight train. Likkel was walking south along the railroad tracks when the southbound train overtook and hit her, according to an Idaho State Police report.

Investigating officers believe that Likkel intended to catch the Amtrak train back to Alabama after visiting family in Spirit Lake for Christmas.

Likkel was carrying luggage at the time of the accident. After she was struck by the train, BNSF employees working on a train in the area reported the body to the authorities, according to company spokesperson Gus Melonas. Responding Sandpoint Police officers found the body about 200 feet west of the Sandpoint Train Depot at about 3 a.m. Idaho State Police trooper Leslie Lehman arrived on the scene about an hour later, according to the agency report.

While preliminary investigations occurred, the track was closed for about three hours, Melonas said.

At the time of the accident, two BNSF trains were within the area. One was a grain train, while the other was freight train carrying intermodel containers that travels between Chicago, Ill., and Seattle, Wash. According to Melonas, the latter train was likely the one involved in the collision.  

Investigations are still underway, both by law enforcement entities and BNSF employees, to determine the exact circumstances that resulted in the accident. According to Sandpoint Police Det. Rob Dressel, Likkel may have been attempting to reach the train depot by following directions.   

 Likkel’s family has been notified of the accident. Meanwhile, BNSF associates are pulling data from the trains in the area to further clarify the situation.

According to Melonas, a maximum number of 50 trains can pass through the area in a given day. On the northwestern track, Amtrak trains can travel at a top speed of 79 mph, while freight trains typically move at a maximum rate of 60 mph. However, the speed of the train involved in the accident or the speed limit on that exact stretch of track is unknown.

There hasn’t been a reported train-related pedestrian fatality in the region since 2007.

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