Suicide, interrupted: Train grinds to halt at Beta Bridge

UVA student Jeremy Tatge was leaving the central Grounds and heading home around 4pm on October 14 when he heard a train blow its whistle three times, followed by the "huge noise" of train cars coming together.

Approaching Beta Bridge, he saw about 50 people looking over both sides of the bridge.

The object of the crowd's curiosity? A 20-year-old female UVA student dressed in dark clothing was crouching near Beta Bridge with her head on the railing of the train tracks, according to a Charlottesville police report.

The CSX train was traveling at about 8 mph when its conductor spotted "a trespasser on our tracks and put the train in emergency–" the quickest way to stop a train, says CSX spokesperson Misty Skipper. The train's crew contacted a dispatcher who called the police. The young woman was not injured.

When Tatge got to the bridge, the woman, whom he describes as "Asian, with long black hair," wearing a black jacket and pants, was close to the bridge, holding onto weeds and bushes. A man was talking to her. "She seemed very scared," says Tatge.

A second man came down the bank through the bushes, and as he got close, "The young lady took off running down the track bed," recounts Tatge. "These two guys ran after her maybe 100 yards down the track until they got her and held her down."

He adds, "She was putting up a huge fight."

City spokesman Maurice Jones says the two men were CSX employees.

CSX declined to release the men's names to protect their privacy. "They were thrust into this situation," says Skipper. "Unfortunately it was out of their control."

When a police officer approached, the female being held "got all fidgety and tried to escape, almost throwing punches," says Tatge.

The young woman was taken to Region Ten and a temporary detention order was obtained from the magistrate, says Jones. Then she was taken to the UVA Medical Center for evaluation.

Witness Tatge was amazed the train did not hit the troubled coed, and attributes her escape to the train's low speed.

Results were more tragic September 7 when a Norfolk Southern freight train struck and killed Michael George Wallace as he stood on a portion of track in Albemarle County where the speed limit is 50 mph.

Comments an Amtrak agent, who did not want his name used, "They only go 10 mph through town. If it had been someplace else, she'd be history."


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