Details emerge in train collision

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SANDPOINT — Idaho State Police incident reports are shedding some light on the circumstances surrounding a deadly collision between a freight train and a pedestrian near the Sandpoint Depot last December.

The partially redacted reports were obtained by The Daily Bee under Idaho’s public records law.

Erin Marie Likkel was struck and killed by a southbound BNSF Railway train shortly before 3 a.m. on Dec. 27, 2012. Likkel, a 28-year-old from Huntsville, Ala., had been visiting family in North Idaho and was waiting on an Amtrak train that would take her back home on the morning she was killed.

The police reports said a relative dropped Likkel off at the A&P Bar & Grill in downtown Sandpoint some time after 11 p.m. on Dec. 26. Likkel told the relative she was going shoot pool in the bar while she waited for the train.

Amtrak’s Empire Builder has scheduled stops at the Sandpoint Depot at 2:35 a.m. However, the depot is closed to commuters because the building is in a state of disrepair.

A bartender told state police that Likkel had some beers and played billiards. The bartender gave her directions to the depot and Likkel left at about 1:15 a.m., shortly before the bar closed.

A front-desk clerk at the Best Western Edgewater Resort told Sandpoint Police investigators that Likkel came to the hotel and asked for directions to the depot at around 2 a.m., the state police report said.

After being given directions, the clerk saw Likkel walk to Bridge Street and cross from the north side of the street to the south side. She then proceeded up an embankment at the south end of the railroad overpass above Bridge Street.

The clerk said he made contact with Likkel, but she refused to come down from the embankment. The clerk also told Sandpoint Police that Likkel “appeared intoxicated.”

Boot prints and impressions in the snow from luggage she was toting indicated Likkel walked north along the tracks, but they disappeared near the north end of the railroad underpass, suggesting she may have started walking between the rails at some point, the report said.

A conductor aboard a southbound freight train told state police that he saw what appeared to be a snow-covered deer across the tracks about a 100 feet south of the depot and collided with it. A northbound BNSF Railway freight train later encountered clothing on the tracks and Likkel’s body was spotted.

The northbound train idled on the tracks after Likkel’s body was discovered, which melted the snow between the rails and erased any footprints that may have been there, the reports said.

It’s also unclear if authorities believe intoxication factored into Likkel’s death. Bodily fluid was collected for toxicological analysis, but state police declined to release the results in order to protect Likkel’s privacy.

Likkel is survived by two young children. A benefit account has been established at Wells Fargo Bank and a Love For Erin Likkel page has been set up on the social networking site Facebook for people to share their condolences or offer donations.

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