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Utah girl loses legs while train hopping

LONGMONT, Colo. — A 17-year-old girl whose legs were severed while trying to hop a freight train was trying to get back to Fort Collins, Colo., where she attends Colorado State University, after a trip to Denver, police said Tuesday.

The teen's legs were detached at the knee when she fell under the train on Monday in Longmont, Colo., about 30 miles north of Denver and 30 miles south of Fort Collins.

Her parents identified the girl as Anna Beninati in a statement released through Denver Health, which lists her in serious condition. Beninati's parents live in Sandy, Utah, Longmont Police Cmdr. Jeff Satur said Tuesday.

Beninati repeatedly asked if she was going to die, said Kathy Poiry, a nurse who happened to be nearby and rushed to the girl's aid.

"I kept telling her she was not going to die," Poiry told the Longmont Times Call. "We told her she was going to lose her legs. We didn't sugar coat it for her."

Gary and Marian Jones are neighbors of the girl's family in Utah. Gary Jones described Beninati as sweet and intelligent. He said she already had her general college credits out of the way, and was going to jump directly into a medical therapy major.

"What a beautiful, intelligent and very confident young lady. And to hear this happening to her was tragic, I mean just tragic," Gary Jones said.

Beninati and three male companions got a ride in a car from Denver to Longmont earlier Monday and planned to ride the Burlington Northern Santa Fe train the rest of the way to Fort Collins, Satur said. Investigators don't know how they got to Denver, he said.

One of the males, a 17-year-old from Fort Collins, got aboard the train but quickly jumped off, suffering abrasions on his left arm, Satur said. His name wasn't released because he is a juvenile. Police had said earlier he was hurt when he was dragged by the train.

A 21-year-old man from the Denver suburb of Broomfield, Colo., got aboard the train and his whereabouts were unknown on Tuesday, Satur said. Investigators know his name but won't release it until they contact him.

Satur identified the third male as Charles Hamilton, 25, of Gillette, Wyo. He didn't get aboard the train and wasn't injured. Investigators believe he pulled the girl away from the train after she was hurt, Satur said.

Beninati's family declined interview requests but issued a statement saying they "are grateful to the outpouring of support for our daughter following this horrific accident yesterday." The family thanked first responders, hospitals and bystanders who helped their daughter.

Gary Jones said the girl's family will be able to pull together to face the tragedy. Her father is a doctor, he said.

"Boy, if there's any family that can pull it together, they will — strong people," he said. "They'll know how to deal with it."

He said he hopes Anna will continue to pursue a career in medicine.

"If she continues with her major, what kind of help is going to be to those that she's helping through the trauma? She's been there," he said. "And knowing her, she'll do one incredible job for people. She's sweet."

Colorado State University spokeswoman Dell Rae Moellenberg confirmed Beninati is a student there but said she couldn't release any other information.

The three males are not CSU students, Satur said. Hamilton and the 17-year-old boy were cited for trespassing.

Drugs and alcohol were not involved, police said.

The train had four locomotives and 118 cars, and the group tried to board the 33rd car, Satur said.

Satur said the train was moving 10 mph to 18 mph. Burlington Northern Santa Fe spokesman Andy Williams put the speed at 7 mph to 10 mph.

Police notified the train crew of the accident, and the train stopped about a quarter mile north of the accident, Williams said.

He said one person fled from the train but he didn't know whether it was the 21-year-old from Broomfield.

Nationwide, 442 pedestrians were killed and 388 were injured when they were struck by trains on railroad property in 2010, according to Operation Lifesaver, a nonprofit that promotes rail safety. The Federal Railroad Administration classifies the pedestrians as trespassers because they were on railroad property.

"Anytime you go onto our tracks or onto our right-of-way, you are trespassing," said Williams, the railroad spokesman.

In Colorado, four pedestrians were killed and six were injured when they were struck by trains in 2010.

Contributing: Molly Farmer, Deseret News