Mark Kalina would have taken the long way if he had known that taking a shortcut during his walk home would cost both his legs.
Kalina recalls the October 2012 night when he decided to take a shortcut home across the railroad tracks near The Ohio State University, where he was a civil engineering student. As he walked around a stopped train, he slipped on some gravel and snagged his shirt on a rail car — just as the train started moving. Unable to free himself, Kalina climbed onto a ladder on the car but lost his balance and fell. His body was pulled underneath the train.
“I covered my head with my hands as the train rolled over me,” he says. “It felt like hours till the train passed, and when I turned over, I saw my left leg was cut off.”
Lying on the tracks, Kalina used his cell phone to call for help.
Since then, the 25-year-old Twinsburg, Ohio, resident has dedicated himself to promoting railroad safety. He travels across the country as a spokesperson for the rail safety organization Operation Lifesaver, supporting its See Tracks? Think Train! trespasser prevention campaign. Last year, collisions at highway-rail grade crossings in California fell by 1.2 percent and rail trespass casualties (deaths plus injuries) rose 18.9 % according to Federal Railroad Administration statistics.
It is important to remember to stay away from tracks even if you don’t think a train is around or around stopped trains. Walking across railroad is never a safe decision.
Throughout this month, we want to remind people about the best ways to “Stop Track Tragedies” with a series of events promoting rail safety.