HALEYVILLE - A Haleyville man was transported to Huntsville Hospital late Wednesday night, June 3, after being struck by a train while walking on the railroad tracks, authorities said.
John Valentine Jr., was seriously injured in the incident that occurred around 8:54 p.m. at the area of the former Marshal Durbin plant located off Alabama Avenue.
Valentine was reportedly walking on the railroad tracks in that area, when he was struck by a northbound Norfolk Southern Railroad train. After Valentine was struck, the train traveled another 1,200 feet before it could come to a complete stop, authorities on the scene added.
In fact, the train’s engine came to a stop just a few hundred feet south of the three way railroad intersection in the area of Alabama Avenue.
Emergency responders illuminated the night with bright flashing lights, setting up incident command at the large lot adjacent to the plant, in the area where the collision took place, noted Acting Haleyville Fire Chief Terrell Baccus.
The victim was found lying next to the railroad tracks off a steep embankment leading from the side of the tracks.
Officials with Haleyville Fire Department, Haleyville Police Department, Bear Creek Police Department and medics with Regional Paramedical Service ambulance worked with Valentine for an extended period, treating his injuries before he could be transported to the nearby RPS ambulance which had parked on a concrete area beside the former plant.
Authorities recalled seeing a bag beside Valentine in the area where he had been struck by the train.
Emergency responders noted that Valentine apparently suffered injuries to his arm and torso area as well as a cut on his forehead.
“We heard a train and all of a sudden we heard boom, then we heard the police sirens, so we came outside,” noted Sheila Harper, who lives in the area.
Harper recalled that Valentine had stopped by her house only 10 to 15 minutes before the incident occurred.
“He stopped by my house and asked for a spoon to eat some ice cream,” she said. “He always stops by and I give him food and stuff to him through... When I’m cooking, I’ll bring a plate outside to him.”
Once medics helped package up Valentine’s wounds and gave him needed fluids, the group of emergency responders lifted him on a gurney and transported across some older abandoned rail tracks and weeded area to the RPS unit.
Meanwhile, the fire department went across the three way stop and prepared a landing zone for Air Evac medical helicopter in the front parking lot of what had once been Bama Textile off Alabama Avenue.
RPS transported Valentine to that parking area where he was transferred by a team of medics and first responders to Air Evac.
However, shortly after takeoff, Air Evac had to land back where the landing zone had been prepared, due to foggy conditions, officials on the scene said.
This meant the team had unload Valentine from Air Evac and transport him back to the RPS unit, which then transported him for further treatment at Huntsville, officials said.
The Air Evac pilot stayed with the craft, and weather conditions were cleared enough that he was able to take off, about one hour after emergency responders had been able to leave the scene, fire officials said.
An investigative team from Norfolk Southern also came on the scene, with the train being cleared to depart by around 11:30 p.m., Baccus stated.
Baccus stated the scene concerning Valentine could have been far worse.
“He was lucky to have not sustained any more injuries than what he did,” Baccus said. “Incidents like this are usually fatal.”
See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.