Man killed in Brattleboro railroad bridge accident

Man killed in Brattleboro railroad bridge accident

Second man injured after the two found themselves in the path of Amtrak’s Vermonter

BRATTLEBORO — A 26-year-old local man was killed and a companion injured Sunday after they stepped onto a railroad bridge and found themselves in the path of Amtrak's daily Vermonter passenger train.

According to a Brattleboro Police news release, the two men were walking across the iron span that stretches over the confluence of the Connecticut and West rivers near Route 5 when a southbound locomotive blew its whistle and tried to brake.

Police said that “emergency stop procedures were initiated” and that “one of the persons appeared to have been struck by the train as it passed by.”

Rescue workers transported Nicholas O. Widomski to Brattleboro Memorial Hospital, where he died from unspecified injuries, police said.

The other man, Harrison H. Johnson, 22, of Marlboro, sustained minor injuries and was released after treatment.

The Vermonter, which runs from St. Albans to Washington, D.C., was scheduled to reach downtown Brattleboro just past the bridge at 12:34 p.m., but was running a half-hour late, Amtrak spokesman Craig Schulz said.

The train stopped after the accident, which took place shortly after 1 p.m. It started up again about 2 p.m.

None of the 45 passengers reported injuries, Amtrak said.

Archer Mayor, a nationally known mystery writer from nearby Newfane, worked the area Sunday in his second job as a death investigator for the state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

Mayor couldn't say anything publicly about the accident. But readers of his Joe Gunther series know the author is familiar with the rusting bridge that's featured in his 2009 novel The Price of Malice.

“Neither one of them saw or heard the train,” Mayor wrote in that book. “It was on them ... like a mechanical nightmare, in the proverbial blink of an eye. All noise and blur and heart-stopping surprise.”

Brattleboro Police strung yellow crime scene tape along and under the tracks as they took photos and measurements as part of a joint investigation by the Criminal Investigation Division and Amtrak Police.

Police said Widomski's body was transported to the Chief Medical Examiner's office in Burlington, where an autopsy was performed.

On Monday, dozens of stunned friends poured out memories and tributes to Widomski, describing him on social media as a gifted artist, self-taught juggler, and devoted friend, with post after post describing a larger-than-life grin as “incandescent” and “contagious.”

“Nick, you lit the streets of this town with your smile,” wrote one friend, Cory Sorensen.

Train safety

Amtrak confirmed that the train “made contact with an individual” and is cooperating with investigations, its spokesman said.

The train accident is the second to kill someone in Windham County in recent years. In January 2012, a 15-year-old Vernon boy died on a track crossing near his home at dusk after he was struck by the northbound Vermonter that had just passed the state's southern border.

By late Sunday afternoon, Amtrak service was back on schedule when the northbound Vermonter arrived downtown shortly after 5 p.m.

“It happens all the time,” an employee at the station said of the accident. “People just don't know enough to stay off the tracks.”

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