A Chester teenager’s left foot was severed Friday morning after authorities say it was run over by a train on tracks near his home.
At about 10:15 a.m., emergency officials were sent to the railroad tracks on Torbit Street, off Columbia Street, after receiving word that a boy, 17, had been hit by a train, said Rickey Bell, Chester County’s EMS supervisor.
Emergency officials blocked Lancaster and Hinton streets as crews secured the scene. Chester police and fire personnel responded along with EMS Sheriff’s Office personnel, Bell said.
The boy, identified by relatives as Nicholas Chambers, was taken by helicopter to Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, where doctors Friday afternoon told family members they would be unable to reattach his foot, said Melba Carter, his aunt.
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Chambers, a senior at Chester High School, will undergo another surgery early Sunday, his aunt said, and lose his left leg below the knee.
The news devastated the family, Carter said, adding that her nephew is an avid basketball player.
“It’s really rough” on the family, Carter said.
The freight train was traveling northbound from Savannah, Ga., heading toward a cargo freight station in Linwood, N.C. The conductor spotted Chambers sitting between the rails of the tracks, said Robin Chapman, Norfolk Southern spokesman.
The conductor sounded the horn, Chapman said, but was unable to stop the train in time. It typically takes freight trains a mile to come to a complete stop once brakes are applied, he said.
Chambers was unable to get up in time. As he tried getting off the track, the train severed his foot, Chapman said.
There was no damage to the train or cargo, and the engineer and conductor on the train were not injured.
Friday evening, Chambers was awake and speaking with relatives, Carter said. He told his aunt that he was sitting on the tracks listening to music with headphones in his ears. He did not hear the train blow its horn. By the time he realized the train was close to him, he tried jumping out of the way.
Carter said a neighbor found her nephew after hearing his screams. He helped him through a wooded path and kicked in her sister’s back door at the Chester Manor apartments where Chambers lived with his mother.
Carter said she is grateful for that neighbor’s actions, which she believes saved her nephew’s life.
“He really did lose a lot of blood,” she said. "I thank (the neighbor) so much."
Paramedics, Carter said, went to the tracks and recovered Chambers’ foot.
Neighbors who live in Chester Manor told The Herald that a path that leads from the back of the apartments is often used by residents as a shortcut across the railroad tracks. None of them could remember another time when someone was hit by a train in that area.
A fence stretches between the apartments and the train tracks, but it does not completely block access to the tracks. To reach the tracks, pedestrians climb a small hill and navigate through the woods.
Hubert Holmes, 40, walked that path Friday on his way to his sister-in-law’s house. He said he’s used the tracks to get from one place to the next all his life and had never heard of someone getting hurt.
The path, he said, is the “quickest way to get from Columbia Street to East Chester.”
Even children sometimes use the shortcut to get home from school, he said.
“You've got to be careful; anything could happen," Holmes said. "I always look and listen.”