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Saturday, September 30, 2023
Sept. 30, 2023

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Bellingham student’s death on train trestle likely accidental, police say


BELLINGHAM — Police are considering the death of a Bellingham High School freshman a horrific accident and not suicide or another cause, according to an interview.

Investigations Lt. Chad Cristelli of the Bellingham Police Department told The Bellingham Herald that the girl and a friend were walking on a railroad trestle above Squalicum Beach when the girl was hit by a BNSF freight train about 5:10 p.m. Tuesday.

“The initial investigation is looking like it was a tragic accident. We don’t suspect foul play and we don’t believe it was intentional,” Cristelli said.

Neither teen was named officially.

Her friend survived, Cristelli said, but the incident was indicative of the dangers around railroad tracks.

The trestle spans Little Squalicum Creek near Squalicum Beach with a length of about 550 feet, according to Google Earth measurements.

Firefighters and a police officer found the injured girl but were unable to revive her, Cristelli said.

“Medics were first on scene and attempted life-saving efforts as well as one of our officers,” he said.

Police detectives and officers interviewed witnesses, and support officers arrived to comfort the girl’s friend and counsel the police officer and firefighters who tried to save the girl, he said.

Their investigation was continuing, Cristelli said.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family,” he said.

Bellingham High Principal Marty Atkins sent an email to students and their families on Wednesday, expressing “deep sorrow” over the accident.

“(She) made a positive impact on our school and in our community in a number of ways. She will be missed,” Atkins said in the note, which was shared with The Herald.

School district officials provided counseling for students, staff and the girl’s family, spokeswoman Dana Smith told The Herald.

“We have communicated with staff, students and families this morning and have additional counseling support on site at Bellingham High School,” Smith said in an email Wednesday.

A BNSF Railway official confirmed the incident in an email to The Herald but didn’t respond to additional questions about the train’s length, cargo, destination and number of locomotives.

BNSF spokeswoman Lena Kent told The Herald that its investigation is continuing.