UPDATE: Polk County HS student struck and killed by train identified
An 11th-grade student from Polk County High was fatally struck by a train Thursday near the intersection of Highway 411 and Sloan Gap Road.
UPDATE: The 17-year-old who was fatally struck by a train Thursday in Ocoee has been identified as Matthew Smith, a junior at Polk County High School.
Smith was wearing headphones and did not notice the train approaching, according to Polk County Sheriff Steve Ross.
Ross says that the initial investigation reveals Smith walking north on the tracks and was struck from behind by a CSX Northbound train.
He was pronounced dead from injuries sustained in the accident.
Neighbors say many people walk the train tracks to avoid walking along Highway 411, which has no sidewalks.
CSX Transportation issued a statement that reads in part:
We extend our deepest sympathies to those affected by this tragic accident.
Assistant principal Zach Swafford said after hearing the news he knew it would be a tough day for students.
"It's tragic for us on different levels. The student was a wonderful student here. I know it's hitting our school very hard and I know it's gonna hit our community just as hard if not harder."
Swafford said Smith played football for the school his freshman year, and was the team manager during his sophomore year.This year he was a junior who was looking forward to his future after graduation.
"I've known him since he was in 7th grade and he was always a student that got along with everybody, caused no issues with anything, teachers loved him. It's just a real tragedy for us," Swafford said. "He was just wonderful. Everything you could ever ask for."
Joel Cox, the Acting Director for Polk County Schools, issued the following statement Friday:
It is with sadness that I inform you of the death of one of our 11th-grade students from Polk County High. It seems to have been an unfortunate accident and one we wish had not had happened. He was a student who was a friend to many and liked by all. I want to ask the community to join me in remembering the family and friends in their loss at this time.
Our school leadership activated the response team last night upon receiving the news. We have several counselors and psychologist at PCHS today to respond to the needs of our students and faculty. We appreciate them for dropping their plans for the day to help respond to our need. I once again send my prayers for his family and friends in this time of loss.
Administration at Polk County High School is planning several events and fundraisers in honor of Matthew Smith.
Funeral arrangements have not been announced yet.
PREVIOUS STORY: A person was hit and killed by a train this evening in Polk County.
It happened around 6:00pm near the intersection of Highway 411 and Sloan Gap Road.
Sheriff Steve Ross tells Channel 3 the victim was walking on the tracks in the same direction the train was traveling. The Sheriff says the victim didn't see the train and was hit from behind.
Sheriff Ross says this appears to be accidental.
Channel 3 is not releasing any details of the victim until all family members are notified.
The investigation is ongoing.