New London train victim slipped on icy tracks

NEW LONDON There were several witnesses to the tragedy in New London on Wednesday. Wi
Cory Frolik
May 24, 2010

NEW LONDON

There were several witnesses to the tragedy in New London on Wednesday.

Without question, however, the train engineer had the most disturbing view of the young woman's death. In train-related fatalities, engineers and conductors usually do.

A 2005 graduate of New London High School was struck and killed by a train Wednesday afternoon after slipping on the ice at a crossing.

The body of Rosabelle Nemchik, 22, had to be identified by her library card, said New London police Chief Mark Holden.

On Wednesday afternoon, Nemchik was walking east on West Main Street in the village's downtown area.

At about 2:20 p.m., she was walking along the East Main Street train crossing, in front of Firelands Electric Cooperative, officials said.

At least two people saw Nemchik strolling through the area.

As the train gate lowered and the warning signals at the crossing began blinking, Nemchik still was not out of the path of the train, Holden said.

"It was a fast-moving train. I don't know if she just thought she could beat it and then just slipped on the ice," Holden said.

Traveling at a speed between of 54-56 mph, the CSX train was heading northeast in the general direction of Cleveland. The 7,000-foot train was carrying cargo for UPS, said Huron County coroner Jeff Harwood.

Nemchik was unable to get clear of the tracks in time. Clipped by the front corner of the train, she was thrown into the crossing gates.

Harwood said Nemchik died instantly. An impact that powerful usually causes immediate and fatal trauma.

The train conductor put on the emergency brakes, and the train was brought to a halt. Authorities were called to the scene and closed all three crossings in New London for several hours. The train didn't roll out of town until later that evening.

Police and a biohazard cleanup crew responded to the scene.

Witnesses said icy conditions seemed to play a role in the death. They told authorities that Nemchik tried to get off the crossing but kept losing her footing.

"It was very, very icy," Harwood said.

Nemchik was an avid reader. At the time of her death, all she had with her was a library card and a bag for books, said her mother, Goldie Farmer.

"I believe she was headed to the library," Farmer said. "She went there a lot."

A part-time McDonald's employee, Nemchik spent her spare time reading and watching television. She had a warm personality, and everyone around Nemchik took a liking to her for her kindness, Farmer said.

It was a bad decision to try to cross the tracks when she did, Farmer said. But it was slippery out, and undoubtedly Nemchik didn't realize she was in danger.

"We saw her today, and we still can't imagine ..." Farmer trailed off.

"It hasn't sunk in with any of us yet," she said. "It just doesn't seem real. It seems like a dream."

Nothing compares to the loss Nemchik's family is feeling. But the train crewmen who witnessed the death are also deeply affected, officials said.

Not only were they helpless to prevent Nemchik from being struck, they had a front-row seat for it.

"It was a horrible thing, period, to happen. But especially around the holidays, this is just a terrible, terrible accident," Holden said. "You feel bad for the families; you feel bad for the witnesses. There's just nothing good that came out of this.

It is only the second pedestrian death by train in the village in the past five years or so, Holden said. The previous incident involved alcohol.