Boy, 14, Struck and Killed by Freight Train in Laurel

Prince I. Trye attended Eisenhower Middle School.
Prince I. Trye attended Eisenhower Middle School. (Photo By - Family Photo)
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By Aaron C. Davis
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 24, 2009

A Laurel eighth-grader was struck and killed by a freight train yesterday, and authorities are investigating whether he and other teens were playing "chicken" on the tracks on their way to school.

Prince I. Trye, 14, was found near the intersection of Baltimore Avenue and Contee Road just before 8:30 a.m., wearing the bright polo shirt and khaki pants that are the uniform of Dwight D. Eisenhower Middle School. His books were in a stack beside the tracks.

The teen's sudden death stunned classmates and tore at the hearts of friends of his family, which is originally from Sierra Leone.

"They tell me he was playing, but he was such a smart boy. How could this happen?" asked his father, Prince Trye, 59, fighting back tears at the family's apartment.

Inside, Prince's mother wailed: "Junior, where are you, where are you? Why don't you call me?"

Marie Trye, 58, had to nag her son to get out of bed yesterday. Prince was only a couple of months away from finishing middle school, and his parents said he was getting good grades.

His father, a mechanic for Metro, would call his son on his cellphone each morning. When he called yesterday, "he sounded alert. He said he was on his way to school," Trye said.

It was unclear exactly how the boy and a group of fellow teenagers found their way to the railroad tracks about a mile away by 8:30.

Some classmates said they heard the group had missed the bus and was using the tracks to shave time off the mile-long walk to school.

Tobi Suarez, who manages the Tryes' apartment building, said she had heard from students who were in the group that they had jumped off the bus, were walking along the tracks and might not have been planning to go to school.

Regardless, classmates said it is common for teenagers to walk the tracks and even dodge trains for thrills.

Trye said he was told by officials at Eisenhower that his son had apparently been on one set of tracks as a CSX train approached. As he jumped out of the way, he apparently was struck by a second CSX train heading in the opposite direction, Trye said. The father was also told that his son's books were found stacked near the track.

Sources familiar with the investigation said the engineer of a CSX train reported seeing boys on the track and said he blew the train's whistle before Prince was struck. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

The sources said the engineer thought the boys might have been playing "chicken," waiting until the last possible moment to jump out of the way of the oncoming train.

In a letter sent home to parents, Eisenhower Principal Charoscar Coleman reminded students that crossing train tracks is not a safe shortcut to school.

A train rumbled by the apartment yesterday afternoon, shaking the framed pictures of Prince, his older brother, John, and their two sisters.

"The train is coming," Marie Trye screamed, her wailing intensifying.

"The train already wakes her at night," said John Trye, a semiprofessional soccer player. "Now she is always going to hear it coming. I think we will have to move."

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