• Ridership isn't the only issue SunRail faces

    By: Jason Kelly , Christopher Heath

    Updated:

    ORLANDO, Fla. - Ridership isn't the only struggle SunRail faces. The train system is also struggling with a high number of pedestrian fatalities.

    On a crisp Thursday morning, contractors installed new crossing arms for pedestrians.

    It's illegal to go on the tracks, but people still do.

    Marcees Kilpatrick, 13, was killed by a SunRail train in May 2017.

    "I don't sleep at night," said Eunice Beasley, who was his guardian. "I wake up thinking he's in the room, but (when) I look in his room, he's not there."

    Read: SunRail train fatally strikes pedestrian near Kissimmee

    Kilpatrick was killed while crossing in a place where there was no fence at the time.

    The train travels through urban, residential and rural areas in four counties.

    There is no reason to cross the tracks at the DeBary station, because one of its platforms isn't used, but there is a lot of foot traffic at the downtown Orlando station.

    A new state report said SunRail has the highest average annual casualty rate of commuter rails in the U.S. -- more than three times greater than the Trinity Railway Express in Dallas, Texas, and twice that of the four commuter trains in California.

    The Florida Department of Transportation, which runs the train, said it has installed no trespassing signs and added almost $500,000 in fencing to keep people from accidentally walking onto the tracks.

    Read: SunRail to open new stations in Orange, Osceola counties

    "(I) came out, and there was a walker crumpled by the tracks, and you could see something underneath the train," business owner Brian Parramore said of an October 2017 incident in which a woman was fatally struck by a train.

    Officials said they believe she didn't see the second train coming.

    At least eight people have been killed by SunRail trains.

    So far this year, four pedestrians have been hit by SunRail trains, and three of them died.

    FDOT said it seeks to prevent future deaths through physical changes at tracks, awareness campaigns and by investing in technology that warns conductors when something is blocking the tracks.

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