Woman hit and killed by train while walking dogs near Bird Point

A 30-year-old woman named Kristal Lavender was struck and killed by a freight train Wednesday afternoon while she was walking dogs near Bird Point, according to a statement from the Alaska Railroad Corporation.

The railroad said Lavender was walking with another woman and four dogs along the tracks, near a curve.

Just before 1 p.m., a southbound train hit and killed Lavender and one of the dogs, said the railroad’s statement.

According to the statement, the Alaska Railroad Security Police and the Anchorage Police Department responded to Mile 96 of the Seward Highway, between Anchorage and Girdwood. Authorities declared Lavender dead at the scene. Anchorage police notified her family, according to the Railroad.

Railroad spokesperson Stephenie Wheeler said an investigation will look at things like train speed and whether the horn sounded before Lavender was hit.  

The 100-foot right-of-way zone on either side of the tracks is closed to the public at all times. But the area around Bird Point is an often-busy stop for sightseers on the Seward Highway, so train crews routinely signal when passing through the area. Wheeler said they signaled on Wednesday, too.

“The crew reports the horn was sounded, in addition to ringing the bells,” she said.

The mile-long train that hit the woman originated in Anchorage and was headed to Whittier. Wheeler said there’s not a lot a train can do to avoid someone on the track. 

“Stopping a freight train can take up to a mile. One of the reasons why we encourage people to stay off the track is [that] the train can’t swerve, it can’t stop quickly. Even passenger trains take some length of time to stop,” she said.

According to data from the Federal Railroad Administration, close to 2,000 pedestrians who stray onto the tracks have been killed by trains every year for the last five years across the U.S. In recent years, as many as four of those deaths occurred in Alaska.

This story has been updated.

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Kavitha George is the host of Alaska Morning News at Alaska Public Media. She also reports on business, labor and the economy. Reach her at kgeorge@alaskapublic.org.