Man killed by train in Douglas County

Authorities in Douglas County Friday were trying to determine why a man was lying on railroad tracks when he was struck by a freight train and killed near Lithia Springs.

The incident happened about 5:30 a.m. Friday on the Norfolk Southern rail line near the Harper Road crossing, between U.S. 78 and Ben Hill Road.

A Norfolk Southern police officer on the scene, who asked not to be identified, told the AJC that the man killed was lying on the tracks when the “piggyback” intermodal train headed toward Atlanta approached.

By the time the train’s engineer saw the man on the tracks, “it was too close for them to stop before they hit him,” the officer said.

Douglas County sheriff’s Sgt. Dwayne Taylor said the man, who appeared to be between 35 and 50 years old, died instantly after being decapitated by the train, which was going about 30 to 35 mph..

Taylor said at 8 a.m. that investigators had not yet removed the man’s body from beneath the train cars. He said that once they recover the body, they will be “trying to determine identity, notify next of kin and determine why he was on the railroad tracks.”

He said the Douglas County coroner “will be looking at whether or not alcohol was related to this incident.”

Terra Richardson lives on Ben Hill Road, which parallels the tracks.

Richardson said she sees “a lot of people” drinking as they walk down her street and along Bankhead Highway, which runs parallel to Ben Hill Road on the other side of the tracks.

While investigators had not yet determined whether the man had been drinking before the incident, the Norfolk Southern officer said, “I’ve been doing this for 20 years, and it seems like drunks tend to gravitate toward the railroad tracks and they end up going to sleep and we run over them.”

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