James Aaron Daywitt
James Aaron Daywitt
Age 49    Eugene, OR    September 20 2012
Comments: 1

Source: Music headphones may have played a role in a fatal train-bicycle crash that killed a south Eugene man Thursday at a crossing near the Eugene federal courthouse. The 49-year-old cyclist was identified Friday as James Daywitt, according to a statement released Friday afternoon by the Eugene Police Department. The 5:14 p.m. crash remains under investigation, police said. But an initial probe indicted that Daywitt was wearing a helmet and may have been using headphones when he bicycled southbound into the crossing at Hilyard Street just as an eastbound Amtrak train reached the intersection, police said. A cyclist who witnessed the crash, former Springfield Mayor John Lively, said Thursday that the train was “blaring its horn” and that the crossing’s safety arms were coming down when Daywitt rode onto the tracks. Daywitt, who went by his middle name, Aaron, regularly commuted by bike to his job at a Valley River Center-area mortgage company, according to his colleague and longtime friend Todd Zimmerman. Daywitt was a married father of 4-year-old twins who took bicycle safety so seriously that he reportedly spent $600 on a bike light, said Zimmerman, a fellow mortgage adviser at Alpine Mortgage Planning. “What we and the family want to make clear is that this was just a tragic, tragic accident,” Zimmerman said. “He wasn’t trying to beat that train. He was not a risk-taker. Sometimes all of us, whether we’re on a bike or driving, just don’t see things.” Daywitt was “a great family man — he just loved his kids,” Zimmerman said. He also called Daywitt “a huge soul that will be missed in our company.” Daywitt grew up in Grants Pass and had worked as an offensive coordinator for Willamette High School’s football team. Thursday’s crash was the second local fatality in two weeks involving an Amtrak train. A 14-year-old Junction City boy, Julius Schmidt, died Sept. 8 after a southbound passenger train struck him as he walked on the railroad tracks near Sixth and West Front streets. Two other youths reportedly had been walking with him on the tracks, but jumped off before the train could hit them, according to Junction City Police Chief Mark Chase. That incident also remains under investigation, and Chase was in Portland on Friday meeting with Amtrak officials as part of the probe, a Junction City police spokeswoman said. The conductor activated the train’s horn and emergency brakes upon spotting the three youth on the tracks, with the train coming to a stop south of town near First and West Front streets, police said. There were no signs of impairment of the train engineer operating the train at the time of the accident, police said. Such incidents are traumatic for train crew members, Amtrak spokeswoman Vernae Graham said Friday. Locomotive engineers who see people on the tracks often cannot prevent a collision even if they immediately apply the brakes, she said. And once the train comes to a stop, conductors are often the first to reach injured people. Amtrak grants immediate leave to employees involved in such crashes, bringing on replacement crew members. The company also offers counseling and additional time off, if needed, she said. In the past 15 years, more pedestrians and cyclists have been killed by trains than people in cars at crossings, according to the Federal Railroad Administration. Texting, headphones and “other distractions” have contributed to that trend, according to Helen Sramek, president of the rail safety program Operation Lifesaver, which launched a “stay focused, stay alive” advertising campaign. Many people appear to underestimate the muffling effect of music device earphones, Graham said. “We’ve had people walk into the side of moving trains,” she noted.

Collision Data

Crash time: between 3 p.m. and 5:59 p.m.

Closest Intersection:

Land use: Urban

Road type: Urban Arterial

Where on the road the collision happened: Railroad Crossing

Collision type: Cyclist side/Car front end hit

Driver Data

Vehicle type: Train

If truck: Unknown

At crash time driver was: Don't Know

At crash time cyclist was: Failure to Yield

Sources

Source: News Report
Type: Newspaper
Pos/Neg: Neutral
Link if Website: http://www.registerguard.com/web/updates/28786051-55/train-daywitt-police-bike-crash.html.csp

Legal Status

There is no information on legal status at this point.

Comments:

  • Nancy Daywitt October 08 2012

    There is a NO closing rail/arm that was lowered over the train track for cyclist!  There is one that extends for blocking cars which closes but, done over the the bike path!  He was a safe cyclist who often told his brother: “never try to out run a train b/c you will lose!”

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