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UTA asks riders to slow down, look for trains following serious accident


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Team coverageA man who became trapped underneath a TRAX train this afternoon is recovering in the hospital. Tonight, UTA officials are asking their riders to be extra cautious when boarding trains.

The victim, 41-year-old Chris Sherner, is in serious but stable condition at Intermountain Medical Center. The scene early this afternoon was frantic as multiple agencies worked to get him out from under the train at the 3900 South TRAX station.

Sherner was apparently trying to board a northbound train. Utah Transit Authority officials say he was trying to get the doors to open, holding his bike with one hand and pushing the button with the other.

The TRAX beeping sounded, indicating the train was pulling away. UTA says Sherner's bike got caught. He went to grab it but was pulled under.

Laurie Bauman witnessed the accident. "I had just got off the bus to catch TRAX, and TRAX had already shut the door, and I seen this gentleman pushing the button with his bike, and TRAX started to move, and it just all of a sudden, boom, he went down, and he fell under the train. I mean, it was just horrible."

"He got kind of situated so that the platform and the first rail … he just got stuck right between those two. So, it's amazing he's not in worse condition," UTA spokeswoman Carrie Bohnsack-Ware.

"I thought he was dead ‘cause he didn't scream or nothing, he just layed there," witness Adrian Andrews said.

Another witness, Lisa Woltz, told us, "It took him a few moments to respond, but he started talking. He was agitated. I told him, I said, ‘Hold my hand. We'll get you through this.'"

Woltz is a former EMT. She was on the train and saw Sherner fall. She stayed with him to keep him from going into shock.

South Salt Lake firefighters and paramedics were able to inch Sherner out without lifting the train. He had a head laceration but was conscious and alert.

A medical helicopter was dispatched but went unused. Sherner was transported to a hospital by ambulance.

Now the Salt Lake City police major accident team will investigate. A spokesman said they were taking measurements and talking to witnesses. He said, at this point, it doesn't appear that UTA or TRAX is at fault.

UTA says the driver will be put on administrative leave pending an alcohol and drug test, as is procedure.

Luckily, incidents like this don't happen all the time. "We've been in service almost 10 years, and we've had approximately 230 million boardings and disembarkations; and during that time, we've only had two incidents of this nature," explained Ron Nickle, UTA's rail safety administrator.

But when they do, Nickle says it's often because people are in a hurry. "They need to slow down," he said.

Today, we rode along to see what train operators see every day. Sure enough, we saw a man darting right out in front of the train as it approached the platform.

"Our train operators are actually watching to see if eyes are looking at them. They're very relaxed when they see the eyes, but when they see people walking away or running across in front of their path, it does add stress," Nickle said.

He says that stress can be avoided. "When the train sounds its gong, it makes two gong sounds, that means the train is departing. The train starts to move, and that's when they need to step back and catch the next train," Nickel said.

That warning is especially important on a night like tonight, when hundreds will leave the Jazz game and get on TRAX. You'll notice that UTA has put up special yellow barriers to make sure everyone crosses at the crosswalk and not over the tracks.

E-mail: sorton@ksl.com
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