Oregon City train death illustrates need for ‘personal vigilance’

Oregon

Typical Canemah neighborhood private railroad crossings lack electronic warning devices

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The Portland Tribune is a KOIN 6 media partner.

PORTLAND, Ore. (Portland Tribune) — A former resident of Oregon City was killed by an Amtrak train in the Canemah neighborhood, illustrating the importance of keeping an eye out for trains in the area largely lacking in warning signals or crossing arms.

Patrick Shea, 48, was killed by the train at 11:50 a.m. on Oct. 15 near First Avenue and Jerome Street in Oregon City. Shea was the second Oregon death involving a Seattle-to-Eugene Amtrak Cascades train in two days, following closely after Laureano Joronimo-Matias, 40, who died Oct. 14 in Woodburn after disregarding lowered crossing gate arms.

Amtrak’s 75 passengers, plus crew on board, were delayed 3 hours and 10 minutes while Shea’s death was being investigated. Unlike in the Woodburn case, there is no authorized crossing with gate arms near OC’s First and Jerome intersection. ODOT State Rail Planner Robert Melbo said the lack of crossing means that the Federal Railroad Administration will likely record Shea’s death as a trespassing fatality.

“There are no electronic warning devices, which is pretty typical of private crossings,” Melbo said. “Safety relies on the signs and personal vigilance by users.”

Melbo explained that Oregon public railroad crossings involve publicly owned and maintained streets, roads and highways with a governmental entity responsible for the roadway on both sides of the track. They can’t be altered without obtaining a permit from ODOT, while private crossings exist as the result of arrangements with the railroad company, in this case Union Pacific Railroad.

“There are a variety of different mechanisms by which private crossings are authorized, among them agreements, leases, easements and deed conditions,” Melbo said. “Private crossings, other than required signage, are not regulated by ODOT.”

COURTESY PHOTO: GOOGLE MAPS – A typical private railroad crossing at Paquet Street in the Canemah neighborhood of Oregon City lacks electronic warnings.

Public records show that Shea was a resident of Oregon City until buying a house in the Lents neighborhood of Portland in 2012.

Shea filed for divorce in 2017. He and his wife at the time had married in 2005 and had three children together.

According to the terms of the divorce, Shea’s ex-wife was awarded primary custody of their children and kept ownership of the house. In addition to $775 in monthly child support, Shea was ordered by the court to pay $500 in monthly maintenance spousal support through July 2023.

Shea may have been homeless. According to voter registration records, he remained registered at his ex-wife’s house and never found a new home.

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