Daniel Edmondson embracing new life after losing legs on Nicollet Island

Jesse Marx
Nicollet Island train tracks at night
Daniel Edmondson was looking for a shortcut.

It was just past midnight, and the noise of the Hennepin Avenue club had receded. He and a friend were headed to a house on Nicollet Island as a train crossed their path.

SEE ALSO: Railworker killed in Northstar Line accident 

Edmondson grabbed a ladder in the dark and imagined how he'd soon be grinning and standing on the other side of the tracks. Growing up in Delaware, Ohio, Edmondson used to hitch rides to get around, and it'd always gone smoothly.

But something caught him this time as he jumped. It rocketed him toward the screeching steel and dragged him for about 30 yards before spitting him loose. Up ahead was a bridge, where he could have been smashed or dropped into the river.

He lay on his back and composed himself -- the feeling of terror having melted into laughter at the realization that he'd just cheated death. He tried to stand but couldn't. His cold fingers crept down his legs and stopped just below the knee, on a bloody pulp of denim and bone.

The sound of screaming guided his friend, who called 911. Together, they ripped Edmondson's belt from its loops and wrapped it around his stomach to slow the bleeding. He remained conscious until after the paramedics took him away.

"The next thing I knew," he says, "I woke up in a hospital bed with my legs gone."

Gruesome though they are, pedestrian-related accidents on train tracks are incredibly rare. Edmondson's is nevertheless a cautionary tale, one of 33 that's been reported in Hennepin County since 1975, when Federal Railroad Administration records began.

The number of train accidents involving automobiles has fallen each year. However, the number of pedestrian accidents has held steady at about 500 nationally and 10 in Minnesota.

"That's a problem for us," says Sheryl Cummings, a local spokeswoman for Operation Lifesaver. "That means that we have more work to do as far as reaching out and educating people on how to stay safe."

Tammy Wagner, an FRA regional crossing manager, points out pilot programs that beef up alerts at commuter stations, though she admits that such precautions won't deter everyone from darting across the tracks.

"Our goal would be zero accidents," she says, "but sometimes that's not possible."

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