For Angela Henderson, there’s still a moment every day when she realizes her son died after being hit by a train in Copperas Cove.
“It’s like someone is punching you in the gut,” Henderson said Thursday, three weeks after the death of her son, Kurtis.
Henderson, who lives in Hutto, has pieced together the events that led to her son’s death from talking to one of his friends and from the police investigation.
Henderson said Kurtis and his best friend were working on a car when her son decided to walk to a nearby 7-Eleven. Usually, they would both go to the store to pick up a drink and a lottery ticket.
Henderson said Kurtis decided to go to the store alone when his friend decided he didn’t want to walk. Together, they had found a cut-through that ran along the railroad tracks on the way to the store.
It was only the second time Kurtis had ever used that route, according to Henderson.
The police report on Roemeling’s death shows that he was walking on the tracks near City Park on March 14 when a westbound BNSF train struck and killed him. According to the Copperas Cove Police Department, the train operator activated the train’s emergency braking system as soon as he saw Roemeling was on the track, but could not stop in time.
Roemeling did not make any attempt to avoid the train, according to the train operator.
Henderson said Roemeling was wearing noise-isolating earbuds when he left his friend to go the store.
Lt. Jeremy Alber of the Copperas Cove Police Department said all indications point to Roemeling having his earbuds in as he walked along without hearing the train approaching.
But Alber can’t say what Roemeling was playing in those earbuds or the volume on the day he was killed, because the device he was using was shattered.
Alber called Roemeling’s death a tragedy, not only for his family, but for the employees of the railroad who could not stop the train in time to avoid hitting the pedestrian.
Alber added that people shouldn’t walk on the tracks because it’s illegal. The official term is interference with railroad property, which includes trespassing on the tracks and in the railroad’s right of way.
Henderson said her son was not paying attention to his surroundings as the train kept moving toward him, blowing its horn.
She thinks having both earbuds in probably killed her son.
“He tuned out things sometimes,” Henderson said, adding that he was in a different world when listening to music.
The case is very similar to that of a high school student who died two years ago in Copperas Cove while walking on the tracks with headphones on,
The Copperas Cove Police Department used video from the train that hit Alexander Stout to confirm that the 16 year old was wearing headphones.
He was walking on the tracks near the school’s athletic fields when he was killed March 22, 2017.
The circumstances of Stout’s death along with her son’s death has caused Henderson to take action.
She’s teamed up with the group #OneEarOut to encourage everyone to keep at least one ear open to what’s happening around them.
The website for #OneEarOut shows that the group was founded after a young woman was hit by a train and died in Colorado in 2016. She was also wearing noise-cancelling headphones at the time.
Mark Neitro, executive director of the group, says his research shows there have been about 60 similar deaths within the last five years.
Neitro does outreach to families affected by these tragedies, but says Henderson contacted him to talk about her son’s death.
“It’s amazing to me,” Neitro said, talking about how people are finding out about his group and its message.
He called it a grassroots effort that’s expanded mostly through social media, but notes that the message has reached as far as New Zealand.
“It’s nice to hear people talking about it in places like schools, even when we’ve never been there,” Neitro said
The website emphasizes that both ears should never be covered while walking, cycling or running.
It’s a message Henderson plans to drive home with as many people as she can.
In addition to promoting it on social media, she’ll be putting together a table at a fitness boot camp to encourage everyone to have one ear out for potential danger.
“I don’t want somebody else’s parents to have to go through this,” Henderson said. “It can be prevented if the kids can just have an ear free so they can hear.”
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