The Gervais community is gathering to raise money for the family of a teenager killed earlier this week when he was struck by an Amtrak train.

Diego Rodriguez, 13, of Gervais and a 14-year-old friend were walking on the tracks between Woodburn and Gervais around 7 p.m. Tuesday. by: SUBMITTED - Diego Rodriguez, who was killed when he was struck by an Amtrak train Tuesday, is shown here in a school photo from last year.

The boys thought the train was traveling on an adjacent track until it got closer and, by then, it was too late for Diego, a Samuel Brown Academy student, to get out of the way.

The train was carrying 65 passengers and was 14 cars long. No one else was injured.

The incident occurred near Fourth Street, just north of Ivy Avenue in Gervais. The train engineer, who was operating the Amtrak from Seattle to Eugene, reportedly saw a shadow on the tracks as the train began to enter Gervais. Realizing it was a person, the train was placed in "emergency braking," the fastest means of stopping a moving train, according to railroad officials.

There will be a spaghetti dinner fundraiser Sunday from 5 to 7 p.m. at Gervais High School. The cost is $5 per person and proceeds go to Diego's family to help pay for funeral costs. Additional contributions can be made to “The Diego Rodriguez Memorial Account” at the Woodburn Wells Fargo Bank, account no. 6947186992.

Family said Diego was "a good kid" and the school has made grief counseling available to students.

"The grief counselors were stunned with how many kids were seeking support," said Rick Hensel, superintendent of Gervais School District. He added that the district started Wednesday off with three grief counselors, but because of the flow of students seeking help, there were nine counselors in the schools by the end of the day. Counselors were lodged at Gervais Middle School, where many of Diego's friends attended, and at the district office, near Sam Brown Academy, where he attended eighth grade.

"In this community, everybody is family," Hensel said. "When the kids first walked in the hallway, at best they had dead pan faces, but most were crying."

He said Diego was a popular student and was being raised by an uncle after his mother died several years ago. He has multiple relatives attending Gervais schools.

Hensel said the district is looking at bringing in a group that gives presentations on railroad safety awareness.

"It's kind of a cultural tradition around here to walk on the tracks toward Woodburn," Hensel said. "So it's important we have someone talk about safety."

Marion County Sheriff's Office deputies have pointed out that walking on railroad tracks is dangerous and a crime punishable by up to one year in prison.

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