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Sue Guinn Legg

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Johnson City police: Man waved to engineer, conductor before being killed by train

June 24th, 2013 10:28 pm by Sue Guinn Legg

Johnson City police: Man waved to engineer, conductor before being killed by train

Recent booking photo of Lavern Alan Wampler.

A man killed by a train near West Market Street was sitting near the tracks and waved to the engineer before he was struck.

Larvern Wampler, 50, was killed on the CSX Railroad tracks near the Johnson City Washington County Boys and Girls Club just after 10 p.m. Saturday.

Johnson City Police Department Investigator Justin Adams said the engineer and conductor of the northbound train saw Wampler sitting in the gravel adjacent to the tracks about 500 feet from West Market.

The engineer sounded the train’s horn and Wampler turned toward the train, raised his hand and waved, Adams said. 

“They took that as an acknowledgement that he saw the train and was far enough away that it wouldn’t hit him,” Adams said. “They continued on but after they passed him they heard the thud and they knew he was too close.”

Wampler was pronounced dead at the scene. A police report said he was from Cherokee, Iowa, and had lived in the Johnson City area since 1999.

Adams said police officers were familiar with Wampler as a homeless person who lived or slept near the tracks in the area where he was killed.

A check of local police records showed he had been arrested numerous times since 1999 but never for anything more serious than public drunkenness and panhandling.

Adams said a blood sample was taken and would be sent to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation crime lab to determine if Wampler was intoxicated or if alcohol or another intoxicant contributed to his not moving away from the train.

“We have real good witness statements from the conductor and engineer and we don’t suspect any one pushed him or foul play of any kind,” Adams said. “It’s kind of just a sad situation.”

Good Samaritan Ministries Director Sarah Wells said Wampler received his mail at the ministry and frequently came there for showers and clothing.

While he indicated at one time he received a small monthly benefit from the Veterans Administration, Wells said no record of that benefit was found when the ministry attempted to secure housing for him through a VA program for homeless veterans.

“When he had money, he stayed in the hotels on West Market,” Wells said. 

She said Wampler had only asked for other assistance from the ministry on one occasion about three months ago. 

At that time, Wells said, Wampler was living at Johnson Inn and told the ministry he was undergoing treatment for cancer. “We were taking food out to him while he was there,” she said.

For an earlier report, visit this link.

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