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Train kills 6 in Texas as they sleep on tracks

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Six people believed to be illegal immigrants from Mexico were hit and killed Monday by a freight train as they slept on a desolate stretch of tracks in southern Texas. Officials said they believed the immigrants may have been victims of a superstition that the rails would keep them safe from snakes.

"There's a myth that if you sleep between the rails that snakes will not get you," said Mark Davis, a spokesman for Union Pacific. "You go down the railroad tracks, you'll see snakes cut in half."Davis said the driver of the train blew the whistle repeatedly when he noticed the people on the tracks. Although a couple of the victims raised their heads, no one got off the tracks. Davis said he was uncertain how far the train was from the victims when the driver saw them. But, he added, it would have taken a mile to stop the 105-car train, which was traveling between 45 and 49 miles per hour.

The vast ranchlands of South Texas that stretch between the Rio Grande and San Antonio are among the most remote in the state. While illegal immigrants sleeping on railroad tracks have been killed before, Fred Borrego, patrol agent in charge of the U.S. Border Patrol in Kingsville, said never had so many been killed in one accident.