FORT WAYNE – A 12-year-old boy and his two friends hopped a freight train Sunday in Fort Wayne and got off in Ohio where the boy fell asleep on the railroad tracks and was killed by a passing train, authorities said.
The boy and his friends, a 14-year-old girl and a 10-year-old boy, left their homes in the early-morning hours and climbed aboard the train at 2 or 3 a.m., said Sgt. Mike Cortez of the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department.
The three rode the Norfolk Southern train out of Fort Wayne, traveling many miles east into Ohio. “At some point, the train stopped, and they decided they wanted to come back home,” Cortez said.
The three got off the train and began to head home, walking west along the tracks, the sergeant said. It’s not clear where they started walking, but they managed to follow the tracks to a spot north of Findlay, Ohio, a city in Hancock County that’s a 90-mile drive from Fort Wayne.
They did not go farther because the 12-year-old boy became too tired to keep walking.
“From what we understand, he was so exhausted that he lay down and he fell asleep” on the tracks, Cortez said.
The 14-year-old girl and 10-year-old boy left the tracks to find help, and they were able to call a 911 dispatcher. While they were on the phone with the dispatcher, an eastbound train struck and killed the sleeping boy, Cortez said.
“They tried to warn their friend, but it was too late,” he said.
The Hancock County Sheriff’s Department did not release the names of the children. Cortez said the 12-year-old boy’s family had been notified of his death. The other two children had no injuries when they were found, he said.
Investigators do not know why the children left their homes or where they may have been going. Cortez said the boy’s death appears to have been an accident.
The boy was killed about 3 p.m. A couple of hours earlier, he and the two other children were reported missing to the Fort Wayne Police Department, Cortez said.
In handling the case, authorities had to overcome a language barrier. Cortez said the 10-year-old boy spoke only Burmese but that the 14-year-old girl spoke English. All three children lived in the same neighborhood in Fort Wayne, the sergeant said.
Officer Chris Felton, a Fort Wayne police spokesman, said Sunday evening that his department was not involved in the investigation. Norfolk Southern spokesman Dave Pidgeon referred questions to police.