RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Approximately one month after her 7-year-old son was hit by a moving train, Latisha Hayes is speaking out, hoping that no other families have to face the tragedy that she did.
According to the Richmond Police Department, officers were called to the 1300 block of St. James Street in mid-August for the initial incident. Massin Hayes was taken to a local hospital, after first responders found him suffering from a life-threatening injury to the leg.
Although he survived, 7-year-old Massin lost his leg and is now confined to a wheelchair.
“It hurts to see him in pain,” Latisha said. “Other than that, he’s in good spirits. He’s not down about the situation. But I’m down about it.”
As 8News spoke with Latisha, Massin tossed a football from his chair. His mother said that he always wanted to be a football player. Now, he wants to be a firefighter.
“He’s getting a prosthetic,” Latisha said. “But he has to go through therapy. He has a long recovery, and his leg was shattered.”
Massin is one of Latisha’s six children. They live in Gilpin Court, up the hill from where train tracks cross St. James Street.
“I just wish that everybody stay away from the trains,” Latisha said, in tears as another train rolled by. “I don’t care if you a child or a grown because it can happen to everybody. But I’m just happy God saved my child’s life.”
Richmond first responders from police, fire and the ambulance authority echoed that sentiment on Tuesday, holding a press conference to spread the word about train safety. Officer Carol Adams with the Richmond Police Department, who was there in August when Massin was hit, said train safety isn’t something families are talking about with their children.
“The train could be upon you and you could get hit by the train and never see it coming,” Adams said. “We’ve had a lot of horrible accidents, where people were just walking and minding their own business or driving around the arm. That is just not safe at all, and we just need for everyone to be careful.”
According to the U.S. Federal Railroad Association, a train traveling 55 mph takes a mile or more to stop — the length of 18 football fields. By that time, it could be too late.
“It can happen to anyone, like this young fellow,” Adams said. “But not just him. The impact, the traumatic impact that it’s having on him and his friends, and I was here that day. So that’s the other part of it, that people are going to be with you or people are going to have to respond to this issue, and that’s traumatizing.”
In the event of an emergency on train tracks, individuals are advised to locate the blue and white emergency notification system sign located at every railroad crossing. Call the phone number listed or 911 to report problems on or near train tracks. Individuals are also urged to look both ways before crossing the tracks, even if the gates are up.
“The kids have to be right here and it’s no safety net,” Latisha said. “I’m talking about a second for something to happen to somebody, and that’s all it takes, is a second. But I’m so happy that he has his life. He’s not gone, and I’m just thankful — thank God that my son is alive.”