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

November 5, 2009 | 10:08 am

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