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Man, adult son are killed by freight train in Fullerton [Updated]

A man and his son who were train-spotting in Fullerton were struck by a freight train and killed Wednesday night, authorities said.

About 11:15 p.m., a freight train was traveling near the train depot at North Harbor Boulevard and West Santa Fe Avenue when the conductor saw two men near the tracks, said Lena Kent, a spokeswoman for Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway.

The conductor sounded a horn in an attempt to warn the men and tried to stop the 7,200-foot-long train, Kent said. The train was unable to stop, she said, and the two men were struck. A freight train of that size traveling at 55 mph takes, on average, one mile to stop, she said.

Fullerton police responded and found two men on the railroad tracks.

The victims were identified as Virgil Lamphier, 56, and his son, David, 23, both of Fullerton.

“It looks like they were a couple of guys who liked to go down to see the trains once a week,” said Sgt. Mike MacDonald of the Fullerton Police Department.

The father had sent a text message to his wife, saying the two would be on their way home about 11 p.m., MacDonald said. He said the train station is a popular place for rail buffs to come and watch the trains at night.

[Updated at 2:50 p.m.: The daughter and sister of the victims said today that Virgil and David Lamphier used their weekly late-night walks along the tracks as a way to reconnect after years of estrangement. They chose the train tracks for the walks because they were only a few blocks from their home and because “it was just to be in a quiet place where they could just talk,” said Summer Lamphier, 27.

“It was like their space, their time,” she said outside the family house where other relatives had gathered. “It had zero to do with the trains themselves.”

She said her father and brother never discussed trains and had no particular fascination with them that she knew of. But one of their habits was to place pennies on the tracks for the passing trains to crush. After the train had passed, they collected the flattened coins and kept them in a jar at home.

Although it may never be known exactly what happened, Summer Lamphier said she believes that her father and brother were simply walking along the tracks with their backs to the train. By the time they heard it, it was too late to get away, she said.

The tracks are about a mile from the family home, to which Virgil Lamphier had returned about six months ago after separating from his wife, Bobbie, about 15 years ago. The couple, who never divorced, also have another daughter, Jennifer.]

--My-Thuan Tran and Dana Parsons in Orange County

Comments () | Archives (39)

Yes, all freight train crew consist of a conductor and engineer. The freight conductor sits to the left of the engineer in the lead locomotive cab and is responsible for copying all orders/warrants on the radio with the dispatcher including paperwork notes, working on the ground for switch moves and train inspections. Most importantly, similar to the job of a co-pilot, the conductor is an extra set of eyes and ears in the locomotive cab to aid the engineer in safe train movements. For passenger operations, the conductor is of course back walking through the train cars but still acts as the engineer's check-and-balances crewmember copying all signals, special movements, trck warrants and unforeseens (per the Dispatcher) via radio conversations back-and0forth with the solo engineer.

Might I add, this is avery sad story. Not sure what happened for them to both get hit by a BNSF freight train last night. This reminds me of me and my father who have spent a lot of time watching trains all over L.A. from age 4 on up to today (age 30). my prayers and thoughts go out to both the victims' family and the BNSF crewmembers who had to witness and deal with the aftermath of the two fatalities.

It was irresponsible for the writer to ASSume that the dead trespassers were railfans. The accompanying map shows the accident took place south of the Fullerton Depot, so references to the normally safe railfans, who regularly hangout at Fullerton, behind the yellow lines of the platforms, was uncalled for. Common sense dictates one should expect a train at any time on any track.

The writer showed further ignorance and irresponsibility in referencing "the conductor." The locomotive engineer operates and controls the train, including making an emergency application of the brakes and blowing the horn. BNSF freight trains operate with a locomotive engineer and a conductor on the lead locomotive. Some trains operate with a brakeman in addition to the conductor. These railroad men now have to live with having witnessed the unfortunate death of the two trespassers. There was nothing these responsible railroaders could do, as trains do not stop in a short distance.

Does it make you guys all feel better to talk about how "stupid" people are? Regardless of whether or not you agree with their decisions, regardless of whether or not you understand exactly what happened, have a little tact and out of respect to these men's grieving family members keep your petty, snide, tasteless remarks to yourself!

What a tragic accident, for both a father and son to die together that way. I just hope that people just be more careful when they hang out near the train tracks. Because of its length, its easy to assume that it would be easy to dodge trains but in reality, too many people have lost their lives trying to beat the train. RIP.

I think that is a very sad news story. It might have been better if they went to a park. I know in a city there is hardly anyplace you can talk quietly and alone with someone. Perhaps they should have lived in a smaller town together. This news story will serve a lesson to many others to just stay away from any tracks. You don't want to get your hands or your foot stuck in a track.

The more modern locomotives have a second horn button on the left side of the cab that the conductor can use as necessary.

"WHAT?" I would imagine it would take tremendous positive effort on one's part to get hit by a(clacka clacka clacka) FREIGHT TRAIN. "They were walking w/ backs to the train and didn't hear it?" Huh? Everytime I hear one of these stories I wonder if they got a pantleg stuck like in the movies. Would not a reasonable person rip any part of the body from it's socket to avoid being crushed by a (womp womp womp) FREIGHT TRAIN? To get hit by a roaring, earth-trembling, spotlight on the front havin'(clinklunk clinklunk clinklunk) FREIGHT TRAIN, you'd have to be an incredibly stupid/drunk person, be willfully committing suicide, or have been murdered to be hit by a(eeeeeeeeeeeeeerrrr) FREIGHT TRAIN! Can a reasonable, coherent, self-loving person not under some diress, be killed by something that weighs well over 100 tons, and that you can see, feel and hear coming, literally, from a mile away? If there was ever a case that needed investigating....
wow, a(screeeeeeeeeeech) freight train..."how d'ya..?"

When I was a kid, my grandmother house was block and half away from the train tracks in Arizona. We still could feel the train and hear the horn as it passed by. I'm befaffled like everyone how they could not hear or feel the vibrations from the train tracks as it approached.

Estranged? Separated 15 years, reunited 6 months ago, and now, spending eternity together, Walking and Talking Together along the Endless Tracks of Eternity. Sad for those left behind but for them, together at last, forever joined in death and never to be pulled asunder as he who gives his life to try to save another is guaranteed a place in heaven and the other that was caught in the tracks and unable to escape will take solace knowing that he who was once removed from him unselfishly gave his life attempting to set him free. A tragic story forever to be repeated, past, present and future. A set of Angels were urgently needed and these two unknowingly answered Gabriel's call. I wonder who so needed them that they should be so taken and how they manifested the will of God in the life of those in need? So many questions and one day, we shall have the answers to all of life's questions. God grant those in need and lost with that which may save them and give direction to their lives.

Everyone seems to just be going with the written assumption that they could not hear or see the train coming. How does anyone know what they could or could not hear or see? No one is alive to tell the story! Maybe one of them got stuck or God knows what. Point is the only people who know what they saw and heard are dead.

how come people can be so heartless a family just lost 2 people a mother lost a son and a husband and the sons wife lost her soul mate what if it was your family that happened to i could not imagine the pain any of them our experiencing and either can you ... have a heart say a prayer and love everyday you have left on this earth cuz life is short and we all are going to have to go at sometime and sometimes we feel that others get taken to soon but maybe just maybe it is gods plan .. and it may just be an eye opener for some to love and laugh and live life to the fullest and be ever complete with what they are doing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Reminds me of when I was a cop in Anaheiem. A drunk passed out on the tracks just before a train passed through.

The coroner had to use shovels and garbage bags to pick up all the pieces. Not a pretty sight. Yer pal, Ferrari Bubba

Whelp, I've had my fill of strange for today.

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