Man hoping to see 'ghost train' hit, killed by real train

Published: Aug. 27, 2010 at 10:20 AM EDT|Updated: Sep. 27, 2010 at 10:18 AM EDT
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The trestle where the incident happened early Friday. (Source: Sky 3)
The trestle where the incident happened early Friday. (Source: Sky 3)
A photo of the original train wreck in 1891. (Source: Iredell County heritage books)
A photo of the original train wreck in 1891. (Source: Iredell County heritage books)

By Jeff Rivenbark - email
By David Whisenant - bio l email

STATESVILLE, NC (WBTV) - A man who was with about a dozen people who were looking for a legendary "ghost train" in Iredell County was hit by a locomotive and killed early Friday morning. 

The incident happened on a train trestle at 2:45 a.m. near Buffalo Shoals Road.

"It's extremely steep, rugged terrain," said Captain Darren Campbell of the Iredell County Sheriff's Office. "The train impacted with one of them before he was able to get off the tracks."

The train was rounding a curve on Bostian's Bridge over Third Creek which is located two miles west of Statesville.

Christopher Kaiser, 29, died at the scene and two more people were injured, according to Iredell County Sheriff Phillip Redmond.  Kaiser's body was found below the trestle down a steep incline, Redmond said.

The injured patients were airlifted to a local hospital.  Their condition was not immediately known.

"During the investigation, witnesses told deputies they were at the site in hopes of seeing a 'ghost train'," the Iredell County sheriff's office said in a press release.

The group of people did not immediately run from the real train because they believed the train was -- in fact -- the 'ghost train' and posed no real threat, sheriff's officials said.

The sheriff said the incident coincided with the anniversary of a train wreck that occurred at the same location on August 27, 1891. (Read a story about the original wreck)

Since the deadly crash more than a hundred years ago, the legend has come alive that a ghost train plays out that deadly scene again on each anniversary of the wreck.

According to the legend, people have reportedly heard grinding metal, screaming passengers and a watchman's light.

Those who were on the tracks Friday morning realized all too late that what was coming towards them was no phantom.

Peggy Ree Cook lives near Bostian's Bridge and says, often times, people come to her home to ask permission to walk across her property to visit the bridge.

"It was pretty much a tragedy," Cook told WBTV.  She said her grandfather actually helped to rescue people from the site of the original accident 119 years ago.

Redmond said there were "12 people who were amateur ghost hunters caught on the trestle when the train rounded the bend" early Friday morning.

A caller to 911 told dispatchers that all but three of the group were able to get off the tracks.  The caller said that Kaiser, another man, and a woman, all fell.

The train operators tried to stop the locomotives and warn the people on the trestle, Redmond said. Robin Chapman, a spokesperson for Norfolk-Southern Railroad, said the eastbound train consisted of three locomotives and no freight cars.

Most of the people on the trestle started running east and away from the train.

All of the victims were able to clear the trestle except for the fatal victim who was struck by a locomotive.

"All indications at this point are this is an accident," Redmond said.

The sheriff's office plans to talk with other witnesses to the accident who left the scene before deputies arrived.

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