Family Reacts to Hemphill Fatal Train Accident


McDowell County resident, Dustin Wheeler walked through the Friday afternoon rain with a heavy heart. 

His cousin, 32-year-old Melissa Trent, was fatally struck by a train while trespassing on the Norfolk Southern tracks in Hemphill Thursday evening. Wheeler says he and the rest of the family are devastated. 

“Struggling,” Wheeler says, shaking his head. “Everybody’s struggling.” 

Wheeler wants everyone who knew Trent to remember her in this way:

“Remember her as a good person,” Wheeler says. “She was a very good person to me. She would help you with any kind of way with kids or anything. She was a good baby sitter. She just helped me in anyway she could. She’s a good person.”

Senior Trooper J.R. Coburn of the West Virginia State Police Welch Detachment says Trent is not the only one who has been hit by a train while walking the Norfolk Southern tracks. 

“You’ve got these locomotives going down the tracks,” Coburn tells 59News. “Sometimes people get confused especially at night, when the trains are coming with their lights. They can’t tell which track their on and sometimes they’ll choose the wrong track and get hit by the train.” 

Coburn says the Norfolk Southern track is a popular spot for Hemphill locals to take a shortcut into the city of Welch. But anyone who passes through is trespassing. 

“It’s a criminal charge if they’re caught trespassing on the railroad property, which is the train tracks,” Coburn says. 

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