A 17-year old teenager River Baker was killed by a train in an accident that occurred during his senior photo shoot in Troutdale, Oregon. The collision with Union Pacific freight train happened near a bridge where Baker was having his photo taken.
According to police, the teenager died at the scene but members of the train crew were unharmed. A senior at Estacada High School, Baker has been described by the school district as a "wonderful student, athlete, and friend that will be missed by so many". The school district also issued a statement noting that anyone who has been affected and requires support will be able to access counseling services. The unnamed female photographer who was taking Baker's portraits was reported as being "very shaken up" by the accident.
With numerous fatalities happening on train tracks each year, Union Pacific plead "with parents, students, and photographers to not take photos or on near the tracks". Tragic cases like this are a stark reminder that safety should be the priority, whether you are a photographer working with someone underage or with an adult. In addition to how dangerous it is, crossing train tracks at anywhere but a designated public crossing is illegal and you can be fined.
According to Operation Lifesaver, a non-profit organization and nationally-recognized leader of rail safety education:
'Selfies' and photo shoots on train tracks can have deadly consequences — more than 20 Americans have been killed or injured in photography-related train track incidents since 2011. Stay off, stay away, stay alive!
Operation Lifesaver also report that it can take a mile or more for a train to stop, upon suddenly noticing a trespasser on the tracks, making it unlikely for the train to stop in time. Make sure that your and your model's health and safety are always a priority. There is no need to risk one's life by photographing in places that are not only illegal to trespass, but also pose a danger to life.