Amtrak train strikes, kills 11-year-old using earbuds while crossing tracks

Combined ShapeCaption
11-Year-Old Using Earbuds Killed By Amtrak Train While Crossing Tracks

An 11-year-old Florida girl walking near her home Wednesday was struck and killed by a passenger train as she returned from getting soda and snacks to share with her younger brother.

Yazmin White, of Haines City, had earbuds in her ears and was looking at her cellphone as she walked, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said Thursday during a news conference. The conductor of the Amtrak train, which was traveling 68 miles per hour, told investigators that he blew the horn for about a quarter of a mile while he tried in vain to stop the train.

“Yazmin walked up and over the tracks with her earbuds in and never, ever, ever heard the train until the absolute last second, when she looked up and it was too late,” Judd said. “She tried to jump off the tracks, and she died as a result of being hit by the train.”

The sheriff said that crime scenes involving children are “horrific.” He was somber as he spoke about the scene of Yazmin’s death.

"(It is) one of the most heart-wrenching, sad events, as a law enforcement officer, that you can ever witness," Judd said.

Yazmin, a fifth-grader at Davenport School of the Arts, was home with her 9-year-old brother, who was napping when Yazmin decided to walk to a nearby restaurant for snacks, an action that Judd described as “such a wholesome thing to do.” The children’s mother was on her way home from work.

The girl had to cross the railroad tracks to get to her destination.

“She got two drinks, I’m presuming one for her and one for her younger brother,” Judd said. “She got some chips, some chewing gum, some snacks, and was walking back to her house.”

Explore>> Read more trending news

Investigators had not yet evaluated the earbuds Yazmin was using, but Judd pointed out that if they were the noise-canceling type, they likely played a large role in the girl’s death.

"If you have noise-canceling earbuds, plus you have your favorite music in your ears, the end result is what, apparently, at this point in the investigation, we saw," Judd said. "She never heard the train."

Judd said his investigators, along with Amtrak’s own investigative team, are still probing the crash, but that nothing out of the ordinary had been found thus far. It was not immediately clear if the train, which was made up of two engines and 12 passenger cars, had any passengers on board when the crash occurred.

The train was traveling within the 70 mile-per-hour speed limit and all indications were that the conductor acted appropriately when he spotted the girl crossing the tracks, Judd said.

“It’s just one of those days at work that’s not fun,” he said somberly.

Yazmin's death is the second tragedy to strike the Polk County Public Schools over the holiday break. Krista Clayton, a teacher at Jewett School of the Arts, was one of five people killed in a plane crash in Bartow, Florida, on Christmas Eve.

Clayton, 32, was a friend of the four family members killed in the plane crash, including the pilot, John Shannon, 70, a Lakeland attorney. Also killed in the crash were Shannon’s daughters, Olivia Shannon, a 24-year-old Southeastern University student; and Victoria Shannon-Worthington, 26, a Baltimore school teacher.

Shannon-Worthington’s husband, Peter Worthington Jr., a 27-year-old University of Maryland law student, was the fifth person killed in the plane crash, which took place shortly after John Shannon piloted his twin-engine Cessna from the Bartow Municipal Airport. The Worthingtons were married this past summer.

The group was traveling to Key West when the plane crashed upon takeoff, officials said.