Out of a beloved son's death, a train safety message emerges

Ty King was not your average teenager. He was rarely without a smile on his face – and this smile was contagious. When Ty entered a room, everyone inside felt his positive energy and immediately felt happier. He was a natural leader – someone who stood up for what he believed in and would speak up if he witnessed any form of wrongdoing. He was active at his Grimsby, Ontario high school, re-establishing the Breakfast Club and pursuing his interest in the arts by participating in the school’s drama program. He had an innate ability to view every adversity as a challenge and every obstacle as an opportunity. He immediately saw the best in everyone he met. His future looked limitless.

[caption id="attachment_5144" align="alignright" width="228"] Photo of Ty King taken in 2007[/caption]

By now you’ve noticed that Ty’s story is being told in the past tense. That’s because on September 29, 2007, Ty was struck by a train and killed instantly. It was exactly 27 days after his 18th birthday.

Ty’s mother, Pam King, says that he was not a risk taker. In fact, on the day he was killed, Ty was attending driver’s education classes because unlike his two older brothers, he hadn’t felt ready to get his license when he was 16. That Saturday afternoon, Ty left the driving school, placed his headphones over his ears and began to walk to meet some friends to prepare for a drama presentation.

Pam doesn’t know if Ty made it a habit to walk on the railway tracks that run through the middle of their town. But on this day, as Ty walked along the tracks listening to music on his iPod, he was unaware of the fact that a train was travelling at full speed toward him. The train engineer spotted him on the tracks and desperately sounded the horn, but Ty’s music prevented him from hearing it. And then there was impact – in an instant, Ty and his promising future were gone.

Pam remembers Ty’s 18th birthday as a day when she reminded him once again that of her three sons, he was the one that made her want to be a better person. He led by example – an example that she followed. When he died, she knew that she couldn’t let his death and the tragic, but preventable, circumstances that surrounded it go unnoticed. She contacted Operation Lifesaver to tell her family’s story – and in doing so, allow Ty to impact others by providing one last important example.

[caption id="attachment_5145" align="alignleft" width="300"] Last photo taken of Pam and Ty, 2007[/caption]

“I have a social responsibility to be involved with train safety - to share my tragedy, to prevent other families from having to undergo the pain of losing a loved one.”

Ty’s needless death serves as a devastating reminder of the importance of behaving safely around railway property. Pam hopes that in hearing the circumstances of her son’s death, people will realize that railway tracks are an incredibly dangerous place to be.

“I want the public to understand that train tracks are a high-speed, 24/7, autobahn for train traffic and train traffic only. If a pedestrian were seen walking down the middle of a highway, the public would recognize that as a life threatening situation and the police would be called. It is no different for a person walking on train tracks.”

Pam hopes that her story will show other parents that it’s imperative to include railway related information as part of the general health and safety messages they share with their kids.

“As a mom, I enrolled my sons in swimming lessons to make them safe around water. I talked to them about the dangers of hydro wires and about the dangers of illegal drugs. I had my sons wear helmets when they rode their bikes. They wore seatbelts in the car. I warned them to never talk to strangers. I did everything possible to prepare my sons for the world’s potential dangers – with the exception of one thing. Never once did I talk to my sons about walking on train tracks. And I’m left to regret that every day.”