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VHS Graduate Killed By Train

By Staff | Mar 25, 2009

Andrew Haslam, a 2008 graduate of Valley High School, was killed Monday evening when he was walking on the railroad tracks near Porters Falls and was struck by a train.

Andrew Haslam, 18, of Porters Falls, was killed Monday at approximately 6:55 p.m. when he was struck by a CSX train at the intersection of the railroad and Chiselfinger Ridge Road, near Porters Falls.

The 2008 graduate of Valley High School was walking on the tracks while wearing ear phones and apparently did not hear the approaching locomotive. According to Wetzel County Sheriff James Hoskins, the train’s engineer gave audible warnings to try to get Haslam to hear the train and get off the tracks. When it was apparent that the man was not aware of the approaching danger, the crew tried to stop the train that was in a slight bend in the tracks. However, they didn’t have enough distance to come to a halt.

Responding to the incident were the Reader Volunteer Fire Department, Wetzel County Office of Emergency Management, Wetzel County Emergency Medical Service, and from the WCSD, Corporal Roger Spragg, Deputy Eric Daugherty, Deputy Rob Adams, and Hoskins. Officials from CSX were on the scene also.

The WCSD is investigating the incident, but Hoskins does not anticipate any charges at this time. “It just appears to be a tragic accident,” said the sheriff. “The crew seems to have done everything in their power to stop the train, but it was unsuccessful.”

“It was probably an immediate death,” said Hoskins. “Our hearts and prayers go out to the family.”

This is the third death of a VHS student or recent graduate this school year. “It makes it very difficult,” said Principal Shawn Coen. The other two deaths were of Dalton Willis on Sept. 10 and Shayna Paigie Baker on Aug. 19. “In addition to the deaths, we’ve had two students lose their homes to house fires,” she noted.

Recognizing the grief that the students and faculty at VHS were undoubtedly experiencing, the board of education’s county emergency team, consisting of school counselors from across the county, was at VHS Tuesday, as was the WCSD.

Coen said Magnolia High School Guidance Counselor John Tomaszewski was particularly good with talking with the students. Also, VHS Guidance Counselor Linda Kirk was a key component.

She also said School Prevention Resource Officer Donald Bordenkircher really made some headway with the students as he is a familiar face to whom they feel they can open up and talk. “They feel they can approach him in a different way,” noted Coen.

“The students seem to be doing well,” said Hoskins. “They are doing testing today and everything seems to be going smoothly.” VHS was beginning the three-day state writing assessment Tuesday.

“He was very popular,” said Coen of Haslam. “He was a great drummer; he even went to WVU to try out for the drum line.”

VHS Band Director Ben McPherson said there was good reason for that popularity. “I will always remember Andrew for two things. One, his sense of humor. Andrew could find the humor in any situation,” said McPherson. “The second thing I will remember is Andrew’s love and commitment to the band and the drums he played. Andrew always looked happiest when he was playing, he truly enjoyed it.”

Fellow students, teachers, mentors, friends, and family will pay their respects to Haslam Thursday from 2-8 p.m. at Palmer Funeral Home, Pine Grove, where a memorial service will be held on Friday at 1 p.m. with Jeff Tucker officiating.