BANGOR – A 43-year-old homeless man died after being hit by a freight train on tracks that cross a trestle over Kenduskeag Stream near Front Street, police and railroad officials said Wednesday.
Investigators have identified the man as Louis Bernard, who was well-known to police for being homeless and living in several downtown areas.
The two-engine, 21-car Pan Am Railways train was traveling 10 to 25 mph as it headed north to Mattawamkeag at 8:43 p.m. Tuesday when engineers saw the man walking on the tracks.
They engaged the train’s emergency brakes and hit the whistle but could not stop the train in time, said David Fink, executive vice president of Pan Am Railways.
“He was pretty close to them, within a couple of car lengths,” Fink said Wednesday. “When they knew they had hit someone they radioed to the [train] dispatch center [in] North Billerica, [Mass.], which notified Bangor police.”
The man was alive but in critical condition when Bangor police arrived, Fink said, but died after an ambulance took him to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor.
Pan Am Railways police interviewed the train crew and reviewed the train’s brake system and found that it was functioning properly, Fink said.
Police suspect the victim was drinking in the time leading up to the accident, Fink said. A beer bottle in a paper bag was found near his body, and he smelled of alcohol. The man had been in the Bangor area for as long as 20 years, Bangor police said.
Fink called the man a trespasser because tracks are railroad property and typically off-limits to pedestrians. About 500 people are killed nationwide in such accidents, he said.
“Every year we have a few accidents. It does happen, more often than we want to have happen, that’s for sure,” Fink said.
The trestle on which the man was struck was the same one that a Brewer woman fell through, plunging into the stream, during The American Folk Festival in August, police said. The woman’s injuries required treatment in EMMC’s intensive care unit.