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Woman dies trying to board wrong side of TRAX

A woman was killed Saturday in the fourth accident involving a UTA TRAX train in as many days.

The 38-year-old woman apparently was trying to board the train from the street side — not from the platform — and either slipped or was hit and dragged under the train, UTA spokeswoman Andrea Packer said. The train was at the 400 South and 900 East station, bound for the University of Utah, where the victim and several friends planned to attend the U. football game.

"It appears (she) was a little bit ahead of her friends and they were yelling at her, 'Hey, you can't get on (the train) from that side,' " Salt Lake Police Lt. Robert Linton said. "The train was either moving or had started to move — right now, we're not really sure."

The woman apparently was in the street about mid-block and at about the middle of the length of the train, pounding on the doors just before the 5:26 p.m. accident, Linton said.

The train's conductor didn't see the woman and was unaware of the accident until arriving at the University station, Packer said.

Driving east on 400 South, Jessica Frank said she saw an umbrella lying handle-up in the road before she saw the accident. Frank, 17, said the victim was lying in the crosswalk on the west side of the 900 East intersection and appeared to have suffered serious injuries to her legs.

The woman, whose name was not released pending notification of family, was pronounced dead at the scene, Linton said.

"This is an unfortunate situation and a strong reminder to obey all of the safety rules, to use the crosswalks and to board the platforms safely," Packer said.

But pedestrians frequently ignore their safety when dashing to catch trains, said Jonathan Morrow, a clerk at the Phillips 66 gas station, 873 E. 400 South.

"I look out there all the time and see people running through traffic to catch trains, and you hear (conductors) pounding on the horn," said Morrow, who was emptying trash Saturday when a woman ran into the station and asked him to dial 911 for help. "People are oblivious . . . and those are not good odds."

Saturday's accident was the fourth since Wednesday but the only one to result in a fatality.

Seven people have died in accidents involving TRAX trains since the light-rail line began service in December 1999. Of the deaths, four are believed to have been suicides, Packer said. One of those was in March of this year.

Saturday's accident was the third fatality involving a pedestrian. The first was in 2000, when Delores Betenes was hit while running to catch a train near 188 West and 3900 South. The second, in November 2002, also occurred near the TRAX platform at 400 South and 900 East. In that accident, Ernie Soto, 48, was crossing 400 South at about 850 East when he was struck by an oncoming train. The train operator sounded his horn and hit the brakes but was unable to stop in time.

Per UTA policy, train operators involved in accidents, including the one Saturday, are immediately tested for drug and alcohol use and then placed on leave, Packer said. Counseling is offered, and drivers return to work as soon as they are able, she said.


E-mail: jdobner@desnews.com