Teen Dies in a Horrific Accident While Having His Senior Photos Taken on Train Tracks

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. 

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Life goes on even when you don’t want it to

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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. 

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23 Comments

Ken Flanagan's picture

Wow, what a horribly sad event. My heart goes out to all the families involved, and friends.

Sophie Charlotte's picture

Wow. This is what Jarrod @ Froknowsphoto is always saying.

Eric Salas's picture

Train tracks... oh, who would think train tracks could be dangerous...

Timothy Turner's picture

If you do a little research you will probably find abandoned train tracks. I am all about excitement and adventure, but you have to use common sense, tragic yes but avoidable.

It's probably best, if you do this, to stress that you did this after researching abandoned tracks. Otherwise the uninitiated might just assume tracks are cool and safe.

When will these tragedies around train tracks stop? These are totally preventable accidents.

Gion-Andri Derungs's picture

As long people not use common sense... Never...

Just me's picture

One stupid death for sure.
Is the photographer in jail at least?

Robert Nurse's picture

I did one track shoot and never did one again. Even on "abandoned" tracks. You just don't know.

Black Rock's picture

The train sneaks up, people don't realize how fast the modern train travels and how loooooong it takes to stop ? It takes 2 miles for a freight train to come to full stop.

the teenager died at the scene but members of the train crew were unharmed

I think the "but" shouldnt be in that sentence
The teenager died at the scene. The train crew were unharmed

Anthony Cayetano's picture

I’m waiting for those who will start defending train track photos. These people don’t even know that you usually won’t notice a speeding train on a bend until tis close enough to...

the teenager died at the scene but members of the train crew were unharmed

I think the "but" doesnt need to be in that sentence
The teenager died at the scene. The train crew were unharmed

Unharmed physically. I have known a person who worked for a railroad and they did not come off emotionally unscathed as they helplessly watched their train kill someone.

Marcus Joyce's picture

Train track photos will lead to death

Rob Mitchell's picture

common sense is a rare thing nowadays.

Stas Aleksandersson's picture

It’s sad but I just can’t imagine how they didn’t hear a train. I imagine it’s louder than a Prius..

Rob Mitchell's picture

My late father was in the Met Police in London for 30 years. He had to clean up many track incidents. Told me many times you do not hear a train approaching until it's too late.

Stas Aleksandersson's picture

Really? Wow. Ok. But there were at least two people there looking in opposite directions. How the hell did this happen?

Rob Mitchell's picture

It really begs the question, doesn’t it.

Marcus Joyce's picture

There are hundreds of reports of people doing photography on tracks and somebody dying on YouTube.