Man hit, killed by Amtrak train in Clay County

By Heather Leigh - Reporter

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. - A 34-year-old man who may have been walking alongside his bicycle was hit and killed by an Amtrak train carrying 256 people in the Lakeside area of Clay County late Monday morning, according to the Sheriff's Office.

The crash happened just before 11 a.m. at the railroad crossing in the 4400 block of Cedar Road.

Authorities said Alan LaForge was walking on the tracks, heading north when the train hit him. Deputies said they found a bike off to the side, which leads them to believe he may have been walking with it.

Sheri McQuarrie, who was on the train heading toward Miami, said she felt a thump and the train braked to a stop.

"All of a sudden you heard a thump underneath the train, and we knew it didn't sound right," McQuarrie said.

Deputies said the train has the ability to go up to 69 mph, but they don't know how fast it was going when it hit the LaForge.

"Then the brakes were administered right away, and you could smell the brake smoke," McQuarrie said. "And they stopped and immediately the staff came and told us that there was a trespasser on the tracks and that we will be here for quite a while. Staff has been very informative and they're trying to keep us up to date with what's going on as they learn themselves."

Gini Barns, a neighbor who lives directly across the street from where the man was hit, was out mowing the lawn when she smelled something out of the ordinary.

"Like burning brakes, rubber or electrical," Barns said. "It was very strong."

She said that was the first clue something wasn't right.

"We have a police officer that lives at the end, and I thought it was him returning home," Barns said. "Then there was the second and third, and I thought, something is either seriously happening or they're having a get together. Then the whole street was lined with them. I knew something had happened on the tracks."

Neighbors say they've seen several people walking up and down the train tracks using it as a shortcut. They say they've even seen cars driving on the tracks.

"This is a dead-end street, but there's an access through the private property," Barns said. "And 'cause the gates or fencing are down, down the road, he's known of neighbors -- I don't know who they are -- that have actually crossed over and road their cars through the tracks."

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