I admit that every time I see one of those high school graduation pictures with a teenager standing on railroad tracks it scares me. Whose bright idea was it to start doing photo shoots where 150-ton locomotives can come barreling down the tracks at speeds of up to 150 miles per hour? I’ve comforted myself with the thought that these kids are smart enough (and quick enough) to get out of the way if they see a train coming, but not anymore. Now the worst has happened in Navasota, Texas, where Fredzania “Zanie” Thompson, a 19-year-old aspiring model, was hit by a train and killed on Friday.
Witnesses told investigators she was standing where two train tracks meet. Police said one set of tracks belonged to BNSF and the other to Union Pacific. Thomson was standing between the tracks and watching for an oncoming train from BNSF with her back turned toward an oncoming Union Pacific train. Witnesses said she tried to cross the Union Pacific tracks to avoid the BNSF train and was hit by the Union Pacific train.
Thompson died en route to a local hospital. Her cousin posted a photo montage of Thompson on Facebook that included a stunning picture of the beautiful young woman posing on the railroad tracks just moments before her death. The photos were to have been part of her modeling portfolio.
Happy Birthday BabyGirl 👼🏾 . We gonna miss you Zanie 😩 just watch over us 🖤. Fredzania Thompson I love you cousin 😘💋 #LongLiveZanie🖤👼🏾
Thompson’s fiance, Darnell Chatman, 25, suggested that she may have been pregnant at the time of her death. He told The Eagle that she called him two weeks ago crying happy tears.
“She said, ‘You’re going to be a dad again,'” he said.
“Zanie had the most beautiful smile,” Chatman said. “I believe she would want everyone to know what a kind and caring person she is.”
“She was more interested in modeling,” her mother, Hakamie Stevenson, said. “That’s definitely what she wanted to do. It’s what she had started to do the day she was deceased.”
Both Stevenson and Chatman said Thompson was kind, welcoming, and loved her friends. They spoke admiringly about how she would help anyone who was hurting and give them advice.
According to the Federal Railroad Administration, 994 pedestrian rail trespass casualties occurred in 2016. Many people don’t realize that railroad tracks are private property and trespassing on them—even for the perfect photo shoot—is illegal.
Operation Lifesaver, a rail safety organization, says that every three hours a person or vehicle is hit by a train. They’re working to change people’s behavior around train tracks and railroad crossings. Here are a few safety tips they hope people will observe:
- Railroad tracks, trestles, yards and equipment are private property. Walking or playing on them is not only dangerous, it’s illegal. Trespassers can be arrested and fined – the ultimate penalty is death.
- The ONLY legal, safe place to cross tracks is at designated pedestrian or roadway crossings. Observe and obey all warning signs and signals.
- Do not walk, run, cycle or operate all terrain vehicles (ATVs) on railroad tracks, rights-of-way or through tunnels.
- Do not walk, jog, hunt, fish or bungee jump on railroad trestles. They are not designed to be sidewalks or pedestrian bridges; there is only enough clearance on the tracks for a train to pass.
- Do not attempt to jump aboard railroad equipment at any time. A slip of the foot can cost you a limb, or your life.
- Remember – rails and recreation do NOT mix!
And it should go without saying: choose somewhere other than the railroad tracks for your photo shoot.