Details emerge about a pedestrian struck and killed by UP 4-8-4 in Colorado

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Google Maps/ Trains News Wire S. Sweeney
DENVER — Details are emerging about the moment leading up to a person's death Saturday after being struck by Union Pacific 4-8-4 No. 844 north of Denver.

About 7:45 p.m. on Saturday, the Denver Post Cheyenne Frontier Days train, a chartered special led by Union Pacific 4-8-4 Northern No. 844 and made up of 21 UP business cars carrying an estimated 700 passengers and 60 crew members, fatally struck a bystander who appears to have been attempting to photograph or video the train near a grade crossing.

No other injuries were reported.

The train was returning to Denver from Cheyenne, Wyo., where it left the city’s downtown depot at 5:12 p.m., 12 minutes late. It had arrived there at 10:35 a.m. that morning after leaving Denver on-time at 6:30 a.m.

The strike happened near the railroad’s at-grade crossing of state Route 22 near U.S. Route 85, which the UP main line parallels, in Henderson, Colo., an industrial area about 16 miles north of Denver.

The train was traveling near its top speed of 60 mph before the engineer made an emergency brake application shortly after hitting the person. About two hours later, buses began arriving to transport passengers from the scene back to the train’s original parking and boarding locations in Denver. After local law enforcement and UP officials conducted an initial investigation, the consist left the scene under diesel power at about 2 a.m., July 22.

"We are working with local authorities to see what happened leading up to the crash," Union Pacific spokeswoman Kristen South told a local television station. The Adams County Sheriff's Office and Commerce City Police were at the scene, but the Sheriff's Office stated that "Union Pacific is leading the investigation."

The victim has not been identified publicly.

A passenger who spoke to Trains News Wire, but requested anonymity, says they were riding in an open vestibule looking out the fireman's, or left-hand, side of the train at the time of the incident. The witness describes the victim as a middle-aged Caucasian woman who was standing too close to the tracks on the east-facing side of the train and was struck by the locomotive’s pilot.

A video posted on social media, and shared with media after the fact by a local photographer, shows the victim in bright white clothing holding an item over her head just before impact. Trains News Wire editors have chosen to not publish the video or still images from the video.

She was one of a small number of onlookers who had gathered near that crossing.

About ten minutes after the train stopped, on-board UP crew members and volunteer car hosts instructed passengers to return to the car and seat in which they were ticketed and remain there until escorted off the train. Caterers had already served all meals, and alcohol service was terminated.

The train was chartered by the Denver Post Community Foundation, the charitable arm of the city’s major daily newspaper that supports local arts, culture, education and youth literacy programs. A train excursion from Denver in connection with Cheyenne’s annual Frontier Days festival has operated every year since the early 1900s.

No. 844 had been scheduled to pull another special to Cheyenne, to benefit the Union Pacific Museum, departing Denver at 1 p.m. That train operated on schedule, but was instead headed by UP No. 1943, an SD70ACe diesel locomotive painted to honor military veterans that had run behind the steam locomotive on the other excursions.

No. 844 is reportedly headed back to Cheyenne today.

Trains News Wire contributor and blogger Malcolm Kenton was on board the Frontier Days train on Saturday.
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