A high school student was killed Monday night when a Metro Rail train struck him on the tracks near the Utica Street Station, Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority Transit police said Tuesday.
The victim was identified as Kanu Kasonko, 18, a student at Tapestry Charter School whose family members are refugees from Democratic Republic of Congo.
While authorities said they do not know why Kasonko was on the tracks, they believe he may have been lying on the tracks when the train shortly hit him around 9 p.m., Transit Police Chief George Gast said.
Surveillance cameras show Kasonko deliberately stepping off the platform and onto the tracks. At first, he walked and then ran southbound along the tracks towards the Summer-Best Station before he was no longer visible on the agency’s cameras, Gast said.
Kasonko appeared to be alone and was not being followed. Police do not believe any foul play was involved, though they are continuing to investigate.
“He was only in the station for a short period of time before he entered that track bed,” Gast said.
Kasonko was declared dead at the scene.
Police believe Kasonko may have been lying on the tracks when he was struck by a train because evidence indicates there was “a low point of contact” between Kasonko and the train. The train was likely going between 40 and 50 mph when he was hit, Gast said.
His body was found south of the Utica station on the inbound track, which was being used by trains traveling in both directions due to construction on the outbound track.
Both tracks are inside one underground tunnel. There is space between the two tracks for a person to stand to avoid being struck by a passing train, Gast said. Between the train and the outside walls of the tunnel, there is about 14 inches.
It wouldn’t be difficult for a person who wanted to walk along the tracks between stations to do so, Gast said.
“We monitor it. We have alarms in place that are designed to prevent this type of thing but as is the case in a lot of areas, if somebody has the will to get in there, they can,” he said.
Having someone walk along the underground tracks is “not a regular occurrence,” he added.
Kasonko’s death is the second case of a person being fatally struck by a train in history of the NFTA’s light rail system. The other occurred in 1990, police said.
Police believe one other person was in the Utica station at the time Kasonko entered the track bed area, but they’re not sure if the person saw him.
Results of the preliminary investigation show no indication of anything done wrong by the train operator, police said.
Both Kasonko’s family and school were notified about his death.
Metro Rail service was interrupted Monday night but was operating normally on Tuesday.