Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly spelled the name of Elvyn Rojas and gave the wrong age for Alejandro Uribe. Uribe is 18. The incorrect information was provided by the Montgomery County Police Department.
Two childhood friends who had plans for the future — including a move to another country for one — were struck and killed Wednesday night by a freight train while walking on railroad tracks in Montgomery County, relatives and authorities said.
Elvyn Rojas, 20, and Alejandro Uribe, 18, both of Wheaton, had known each other since they were elementary-school age, and their families attended the same church, relatives said. On Thursday, both families were grappling with how the young men ended up dead just as they were figuring out what they wanted to do in life.
“He had already bought his plane ticket,” Jacky Rojas, 33, said of her brother, who was planning to move to Costa Rica in October. “He wanted to start a business over there.”
She described her brother as adventurous, with a desire to travel the globe. He was the type of person, she said, who would walk in the room, open the blinds and say, ‘The world is so beautiful.”
“I don’t think people understand how big his heart was,” said another sister, Jennifer Rojas, 19. “He just wanted to change the world and make people happy. Even when I was being mean to him, he would just tell me he loved me and tell me I was pretty.”
The family said they do not know why Rojas and Uribe were on the tracks. Montgomery County police are investigating the deaths as accidental.
Police said the conductor of an eastbound CSX train saw the two men walking near the Garrett Park MARC station shortly after 11 p.m., sounded the horn and applied the brakes before the train hit them. Both men were pronounced dead on the scene.
Uribe’s mother, Ada Ortega, said the two men would sometimes go running at night to escape the heat, and she wondered whether they were taking a shortcut home.
“I know my son wanted to live a long life,” Ortega, 47, said.
She said that her son loved to make people laugh and that he had just cut his hair short Tuesday as a first step in making positive changes in his life. He had talked about eventually becoming a parole officer, Ortega said. “He said, ‘Mommy, I promise I will be okay,’ ” she recalled.
Ortega said that her son would have turned 19 on Saturday and that he had planned to celebrate by going on a hike with friends.