Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Officials: Pedestrian hit by CSX train was killed by accident

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The mother of a Rockville man killed last week after he was struck by at train near Garrett Park believes her son’s death was an accident.

Philip Ivantsov, 23, was struck and killed by a CSX freight train around 6:20 a.m. May 7 near Wyaconda Road in North Bethesda.

According to Montgomery County Police, the death was an accident. The train engineer saw Ivantsov and blew the train’s whistle several times and applied the brakes, but he did not react, according to police. Ivantsov moved off the tracks, but not far enough and was struck by the train, according to Officer Tenesha Bellamy, a police spokeswoman.

Anna Ivantsov thinks that her son, who worked as a night watchman for the Somerset apartments on Parklawn Drive, was wearing his headphones and was listening to music while taking his usual shortcut to the family’s house near Randolph Hills.

She said her son was a well-liked and well-loved musician.

‘‘It’s so hard to speak of him in the past [tense],” she said. ‘‘All his friends loved him. He wanted this world to be better.”

Ivantsov was a vegetarian who was always writing songs and playing music, she said.

‘‘He was not living in this world,” she said of his creative nature. ‘‘Now he’s in a better place.”

Twenty-one people have been killed by trains running on the CSX tracks that run from Martinsburg W.Va., to Union Station in Washington D.C. and through Garrett Park, since 2003, said police spokeswoman Officer Melanie Hadley. Six of those deaths were suicides and the other 15 were accidents, she said. Five of the incidents happened near Randolph Road in Rockville, four in Gaithersburg and three in Kensington.

Bob Sullivan, a CSX spokesman, said train tracks are major transportation arteries and should not be crossed unless at regulated, approved crossings with safety signals.

‘‘The important message is that railroad tracks are places of business in a sense like a highway or an airport runway,” he said. ‘‘These are not places for recreation or taking short cuts.”

The Maryland Transit Authority installed a new alert system at the Kensington MARC station last August, designed to alert passengers on the platform of oncoming trains around blind curves. Kensington and Silver Spring residents have also said the horns from the trains are loud enough to be heard in neighborhoods far away from the tracks.

Chris Keller, Garrett Park mayor and a nearly 30-year resident of the town, said there is not much to do when a train track is the longest border of their town.

‘‘From one standpoint you look at the tens of thousands of trains that go through here on a daily basis, and on the other hand you do worry about those two very serious accidents,” Keller said. ‘‘There may be some things the town can do, but you really have to be on your toes.”