Local News

Texas Teen Killed by Train During Photo Shoot

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A pregnant teenager from Navasota was fatally struck by a train during a photo shoot on railroad tracks. Fredzania “Zanie” Thompson, 19, was modeling for a friend on the tracks in town when two trains approached from opposite directions. According to the Dallas Morning News, as she moved off the track to avoid the first train, she was struck by the second train coming from the other direction. She was rushed to a nearby hospital, where she was pronounced dead. Her friend who was taking the photos was unharmed.

Thompson was described by her fiance, Darnell Chatman, as an excellent athlete and aspiring model. “Zanie had the most beautiful smile,” Chatman described. “I believe she would want everyone to know what a caring person she is.”

While watching one train approach, you will not hear a second one coming from the other direction. train
Photo: Flickr/ Eli Christman

The following is not meant to disparage the victim or her memory. Our hearts ache for her family and friends. Photographers and railroad tracks have become a problem across the country.

Railroad tracks are private property for a reason. According to Federal Railroad Administration statistics, 994 pedestrian rail trespass casualties (fatalities + injuries) occurred in 2016. Last year, 38 people were killed from being struck by trains in Texas alone.

It is dangerous and irresponsible to take clients onto railroad tracks for photography shoots. If you absolutely have to take photographs of railroad tracks, find some that are decommissioned. There is a set of tracks in Kingsland that hasn’t been used for many years. They become overrun with bluebonnets each Spring.

Decommissioned railroad tracks provide better photo opportunities than tracks in use. Bluebonnets overtake a railroad in the Texas Hill Country.
Photo: Jason Weingart

Consider these tips from Operation Lifesaver, Rail Safety Education.

  • 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.
    There are approximately 160,000 miles of track operated in the United States (source: Association of American Railroads, 2010).
  • 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!

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