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Family's warnings fail to prevent train tragedy in Beaver

| Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012, 5:52 p.m.
Josh Nicol was hit and killed by a CSX engine while he was playing near the tracks with three other boys his age. Submitted
Police tape marks the spot on East End Avenue in Beaver Borough where Joshua Nicol, 12, of Beaver was killed by a CSX train on Friday night while playing with friends.
Josh Nicol

Josh Nicol's family said they warned him about the dangers of playing on the CSX railroad tracks running along the east side of Beaver.

When news of a train tragedy started going around early Friday evening, among the first things a family member did was to inquire about Josh, 12.

His uncle, Greg Nicol, a Monaca police officer called Josh's father.

“Check for your kids, see where they're at, because someone got hit by a train,” Greg Nicol said to his brother, Rick Nicol, Josh's father.

That was before Rick Nicol learned his son had been hit and killed by a CSX engine while he was playing near the tracks with three other boys his age.

“I told him many, many times to stay away from the railroad tracks and the river,” a tearful Rick Nicol, 43, said Saturday. “He told me when he left the house around 4 p.m. he would be walking around town with his friends.

“I told him, ‘Make sure you get your butt back home by 6 p.m. so I can take you to your mother's house.' ”

The CSX engineer, who police did not name, told Beaver police Chief Dan Madgar and patrolman Jeff Wijnen-Riems his blew his engine's whistle and tried to stop the 110-car train he drove at about 6 p.m. on tracks by East End Avenue, near the Beaver history museum. The engineer saw a group of four boys, later determined to be ages 11 and 12, darting back and forth across the tracks.

Wijnen-Riems said Josh ran alongside the train and the front of the locomotive. It hit him, throwing him into the concrete base of a metal pole. The boy died of head injuries, Madgar said.

The other boys with Josh, who weren't named, were not injured. Police said they don't believe the train crew was at fault.

Josh was a sixth-grader at Dutch Ridge Elementary School in the Beaver Area School District. A candlelight vigil is planned for the boy in Beaver on Sunday evening.

Dutch Ridge Principal Steve Grossman said counselors would be available at the school Monday for students.

“It's just heartbreaking,” Grossman said. “Any time you lose a child of any age in a school setting, it's just very tragic.”

Josh excelled at baseball and football and loved video games, his father said. He would occasionally help him on electrical contracting jobs. Family also said he was nearly inseparable from his older brother Brandon, 16.

Josh's mother, Jennifer, of Vanport, could not be reached Saturday.

“He was like a little spider monkey,” said Carri Parker, Rick Nicol's girlfriend. “He was spunky. He could never sit still.”

Neighbor Tom Shearer said he'd often see Josh riding his bicycle up and down Fifth Street by his house.

“I was hoping it wasn't him,” Shearer said Saturday. “It's a sad thing. He was so full of energy. He was always on the go.”

“He was energetic,” Emilee Nicol, 15, of Beaver, said of her cousin. “I loved him. It's going to be really hard without him.”

Madgar said that parents he talked to last night said it was common for kids in the area to trespass on railroad tracks, playing chicken with passing trains. He added he did not know if that was the boys' intent Friday. He said it would be up to CSX to decide if any of the boys faced trespassing charges.

In April, a Brighton teen jumped off a moving train in Vanport and lost a leg after the train ran over it.

“We try to patrol as much as we can, but anyone can get onto the tracks just about anywhere,” Wijnen-Riems said.

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or bvidonic@tribweb.com.

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