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May 6, 2013

Man who lost leg jumped onto train

Police say 19-year-old Matthew Morris of Portland fell off the moving train and was run over.

By Tom Bell
Staff Writer

PORTLAND — The Portland man whose leg was severed Sunday evening by a freight train had earlier jumped onto the train but then fell off it and was run over, police said Monday.

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The Pan Am Railways freight train that struck a 19-year-old Portland man in the Riverton neighborhood of Portland on Sunday.

Dennis Hoey/Staff Writer

The victim, Matthew Morris, 19, is expected to survive, but one of his legs was severed above the knee and the other leg was seriously injured.

Morris was injured around 6:20 p.m. when a train operated by Pan Am Railways rolled over him as it passed through the city’s Riverton neighborhood.

Morris graduated from Portland High School last year. Sam Sanders, a friend and former classmate, did not see the accident but heard Morris scream and ran to him, according to Morris’ mother, Tracy Rowe, who works in the advertising department at the Portland Press Herald.

Rowe said the occupant of a nearby house in the Harris Avenue neighborhood also heard Morris’ screams and called police.

“Thank God he was nearby a house and a friend was there,” Rowe said.

Portland police Sgt. Michael Rand, who was first to arrive at the scene, applied a tourniquet to control the bleeding until paramedics and firefighters arrived. Rand is a member of the Special Reaction Team and carries a tourniquet kit with him while on duty. Morris was brought to Maine Medical Center.

Rowe said her son’s right leg was severed above the knee, and that his left leg was seriously injured. She said he is scheduled to have surgery Tuesday on both legs.

She said it appears that doctors will be able to save his left leg and that he will probably be able to walk again with a prosthetic leg.

She said her son has been on a ventilator and has not been able to speak to her.

“He knows what’s going on. He knows what has happened,” she said. “He is trying to come to terms with it. It won’t be easy.”

She said her son turned 19 on Saturday.

The accident occurred near the end of Harris Avenue, which is off Forest Avenue near Portland’s Riverton School. The tracks run parallel to the Riverton Rail Trail, which is used by pedestrians and bicyclists.

The railroad police will investigate the accident, said Cynthia Scarano, executive vice president of Pan Am Railways.

She said people who walk on tracks or jump on trains are trespassing and can be cited by police. She said jumping on a train is dangerous.

“It’s so big and so fast,” she said. “You don’t come away with just a bumped arm or something. They are not toys to be playing around with.”

Typically, train operators don’t even know that a jumper has been hurt in an accident. In this case, by the time police arrived at the scene, the train had stopped to allow the Amtrak Downeaster to pass.
Last year in the United States, more than 400 people lost their lives while trespassing on private railroad right-of-way property, according to Portland police.

A year ago, a 40-year-old Biddeford man was killed when he was hit by an Amtrak train as he was walking on the tracks near his home. He was wearing ear buds and couldn’t hear the train coming.
In 2008, two teenage girls sunbathing on a railroad trestle in Lebanon lost limbs when a train came upon them unexpectedly.  

Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at

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