RICHMOND – Three college students walking along railroad tracks during a College Night in an eastern Indiana city were struck by a train early Friday, killing one of the classmates and injuring the two others.
Earlham College officials canceled Friday’s classes after the accident, which killed Therese Heymann, 21, of Burlingame, Calif., a northern California community near San Francisco.
Heymann, who was pronounced dead at the scene, was struck about 1:15 a.m. as she and two classmates were walking near Richmond’s depot district.
Emily Hilbert, a spokeswoman for the Quaker-affiliated school of about 1,200 students, said sophomore Lenore Edwards was in critical condition, and senior Graham Nissen was in fair condition after being airlifted to a hospital in Dayton. Hilbert said Friday afternoon that she did not know the students’ updated conditions and that their hometowns were not available.
School officials said Heymann was an art major, Nissen majors in music and Edwards has not declared a major.
Richmond Police Chief Kris Wolski told the Palladium-Item on Friday evening that investigators have not determined whether the three students had been drinking alcohol or if they were participating in activities as part of College Night – a collaboration between Earlham, Indiana University East and Ivy Tech Community College Richmond.
We’re still working on that, he said.
Wolski said police were looking into various rumors about the accident, including reports the students were mooning the train’s conductor, but he said investigators had no immediate evidence that took place.
Earlham College provided shuttle transportation to the area near the city’s downtown as part of the College Night event in the city about 65 miles east of Indianapolis.
This is one of the worst scenarios we can imagine, Earlham President David Dawson said in a statement on the school’s website. This is a very tightly knit community, and tragedies such at this affect us all very deeply. We want to ensure that our students’ spiritual – as well as physical – needs are met at a time of deep sorrow such as this.
The train that struck the students weighed 1,948 tons and was headed from Fort Wayne to Cincinnati, Norfolk Southern Corp. spokesman Dave Pidgeon told The Indianapolis Star.
He said typical train speeds in the area reach 40 mph, but it’s unclear how fast the train involved in the accident was going.
The train had five loaded freight cars as well as 46 empty cars.
The crew blew the train’s horn before the incident, Pidgeon said.
Trains must sound their horn when approaching crossings but it’s not clear whether that was why the crew activated the horn.
Pidgeon would not comment on whether the crew members saw the students.