Jeanmarie Baker, 61, Is Killed By FEC Train Just South of White Eagle Off U.S. 1 in Suicide
FlaglerLive | March 20, 2017
Jeanmarie Baker, 61, was struck and killed by a southbound train on the Florida East Coast Railway early this evening in Korona, near the White Eagle Lounge just south of Palm Coast.
The collision took place about half a mile north of the closest railroad crossing at Cemetery Road off U.S. 1, on a segment of railroad that would not be accessible except to someone intentionally walking or riding on the railroad’s right of way, suggesting to authorities that it may be a suicide.
“That’s exactly what we believe occurred,” Sheriff Rick Staly said this evening. “There is more evidence but I don’t want to interfere with FHP’s investigation. But I can tell you, based on the evidence and what my watch commander is telling me, it appears to be a deliberate act resulting in suicide.”
An incident report issued by the Florida Highway Patrol early Tuesday morning confirmed the inference. The report stated that Michael Holmes, the train engineer for the Florida East Coast Railroad driving the train, said “as he was traveling southbound upon the railroad tracks, he observed a vehicle to the right. The vehicle was parked next to the railroad tracks, on an access road. The vehicle was approximately 2,097 feet from the railroad crossing on Florida East Coast Railroad’s property. The Train Engineer stated that a female, Ms. Baker emerged from the parked vehicle, and ran towards the railroad tracks. The Train Engineer observed Ms. Baker had laid on the tracks in a prone position. The Train Engineer stated he applied the brakes as the train was approaching her. The Train Engineer was unable to stop the train in time. The incident was immediately reported by the Train Engineer to his dispatcher. It was later discovered that on today’s date, 3-20-17, Ms. Baker’s boyfriend had contacted the Port Orange Police Department to report Ms. Baker as a suicidal subject.”
Baker was from Deltona. Her vehicle was found nearby. The vehicle was not involved in the incident.
The incident took place at around 7:20 p.m. It involved the Florida East Coast Railroad’s southbound train Number 107, on a freight run from Jacksonville to Miami. Ten to 12 trains cross the county daily, said Flagler County Emergency Management’s Bob Pickering, who has encyclopedic knowledge of trains locally and beyond. The FEC, he said, owns the trains, the right of way and the signage along the way. It is a past recipient of the E. H. Harriman Award for safety.
The trains run on Automatic Train Control, ensuring that they do not exceed posted speed limits or miss safety signals. The limit is around 45 or 50 in the area of the collision, because of curves, with maximum speeds anywhere on the FEC topping off at 60 mph.
This evening, the front of the train had come to a stop two or three hundred yards south of the point of impact (and well north of the crossing at Cemetery Road), and was idle as night was falling and Bunnell Police Department officers and Flagler County Sheriff’s deputies were waiting for the arrival of a Florida Highway Patrol traffic homicide investigator. Traffic on U.S. 1 would not be aware that anything was amiss, a thick line of woods buffering the railroad from the highway there.
The last serious incident involving a train in Flagler County dates back to the May 2009 derailment of a 68-car FEC train, at Hargrove Grade in palm Coast, because of bowed tracks. “Same train, Train 107, it hit a sun kink, ironically on National Train Day,” Pickering remembers. “Sun kinks” cause tracks to buckle because of extreme heat. The 2009 incident caused minor injuries but required a $100,000 clean-up effort, including hazardous materials clean-up.
The last death on a Flagler County rail segment took place in the mid-1990s, Pickering says–a suicide, which took place after a man had parked his vehicle on the tracks and waited for a train to strike him. Last year 37 Floridian pedestrians were killed by trains in the state, and 265 people were killed across the country.