Injuries Spur Crackdown on Trestle Trespassers in Indiana

July 12, 2011

The Vigo County Sheriff’s Department plans to increase enforcement in an area near a western Indiana creek where a rail trestle has proven popular for young people who like to jump into the creek.

At least three people have been injured on the CSX trestle along Otter Creek in the past two years, including a man and his 3-year-old son who were knocked into the creek by a train in 2009. A 21-year-old man was airlifted to an Indianapolis hospital earlier this month after being struck on the back of the head by a passing train.

Jessica Feder, executive director of Indiana Operation Lifesaver, said the trestle spans Otter Creek and is popular among people who like to jump from it into the water.

“It’s very dangerous,” she said. If a train passes while someone is on the trestle, “you don’t have anywhere to go. . You’re really risking your life.”

Becky Skelton, who lives close to the trestle, told the Tribune-Star that law enforcement efforts to run off trespassers haven’t been a deterrent because the partiers just return.

“It never takes long and they’re back again,” she said.

Railroad trestles and tracks are private property, and those arrested for trespassing on railroad property could be charged with a misdemeanor that carries up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.

Chief Deputy Clark Cottom said the sheriff’s department plans to step up enforcement to prevent recurrences. Trespassers will be issued citations, he said.

“We’ll start cracking down,” he said.

Feder said her group has teamed with CSX in the past for community outreach projects and “blitzes,” and she anticipates that will happen again this year.

Trespassing incidents on railroad property and rights-of-way in Indiana resulted in six deaths and nine injuries in 2010. That’s down from 13 deaths and 13 injuries the year before.

Vigo County Prosecutor Terry Modesitt said his office will work with the sheriff’s department on trespassing cases to make sure “we take a hard line on those cases.”

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