OLD ORCHARD BEACH — Old Orchard Beach police say they believe a man intentionally stepped in front of a passing Amtrak Downeaster train on Tuesday afternoon.
The man, whose name was being withheld pending notification of his relatives, died after being struck by the train at the Union Avenue railroad crossing in Old Orchard Beach.
Lt. Timothy B. DeLuca said witnesses told police the man parked his car near the crossing before walking in front of the southbound train. They said he appeared to be awaiting the train’s arrival, according to DeLuca.
“We interviewed several eyewitnesses and based on what we can tell it appears to be a suicide. He walked into the path of the train,” DeLuca said in an interview at the crash site.
The Union Avenue railroad crossing is located about a half-mile from the downtown Amtrak boarding platform, off West Grand Avenue. At this time of the year, the Downeaster does not stop in Old Orchard Beach.
Patricia Quinn, spokeswoman for the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, said the Downeaster had departed Portland at 2:35 p.m. and was heading south to Boston with 15 passengers on board when the man stepped in front of the train. The incident was reported at 2:53 p.m.
Quinn said that none of the passengers was injured, but the incident delayed the train’s arrival in Boston by one hour and 40 minutes. The Downeaster was scheduled to arrive in Boston at 5:05 p.m.
Quinn said she didn’t not know how fast the train was going when the crash took place, but that its top speed can be no faster than 79 mph.
Quinn called the accident tragic and said similar incidents occur across then nation.
“It’s like anything. If someone decides to step in front of a tractor-trailer truck, there is not much you can do about it,” Quinn said.
“It’s pretty gruesome. You hate to see this sort of thing happen,” DeLuca said.
DeLuca said police were able to identify the man Tuesday night but were having problems contacting his next of kin. DeLuca said police will release his name Wednesday.
The state medical examiner’s office then will conduct an autopsy.
Christina Leeds, a spokeswoman for Amtrak, said the speed of the train will be determined through an investigation.
Bob Bustin, a retired U.S. Coast Guard captain, was in his apartment on First Street near the rail crossing when he heard what he called “an unmistakeable noise.”
“How do you describe the noise when a 10,000 horsepower engine is trying go into reverse,” Bustin said.
Bustin praised the engineer for trying to brake the train.
The Old Orchard Beach Police Department is investigating the accident with assistance from Amtrak police and the Boston & Maine Railroad police.
Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: