Why a man walking in south Wichita didn’t appear to notice the train bearing down on him until the final moment or two of his life Wednesday afternoon will likely never be answered, authorities said Thursday.
Robert L. Wells, 26, was hit by a Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway train as he walked across the tracks in the 2300 block of South Hydraulic at 5:15 p.m. Wednesday, Lt. Joe Schroeder said. The engineer had initiated emergency stop procedures, including locking the brakes and sounding the horn, when he saw Wells approaching the tracks.
Wells was walking north on the sidewalk next to Hydraulic, Schroeder said, and he continued past the warning signals and onto the track. He was nearly across the tracks when he was hit.
“At this point, we do not know what was going on with him,” Schroeder said. “He did turn and look at the train right before the moment of impact.”
Wells was not hearing- or vision-impaired, Schroeder said, and he did not appear to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Investigators found no suicide note or signs of depression when looking into Wells’ background.
Two people whose vehicles were stopped at the crossing witnessed the incident.
“The witnesses were pretty traumatized,” Schroeder said.
The train was traveling 30 to 35 miles an hour at the moment of impact, he said. It’s the first train-pedestrian fatality of the year.