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Train vs. skateboard

Kosh McClure lucky to be alive after encounter
by: ,     SUBMITTED PHOTO / 

Kosh McClure recovered at OHSU this week, after being hit by a train in Lake Oswego Friday.

The difference between life and death can be measured in fractions of an inch.

Kosh McClure didn't know how close he had come to dying until he awoke on a sidewalk on State Street.

'I was laying on the ground and I couldn't see,' McClure recalled. 'Everything was really fuzzy. Everyone was like, 'You got hit by a train!''

As he recovered this week from a near-death experience, McClure and his mother, Jodi Roderick McClure, counted their blessings. The 15-year-old Lake Oswego High School sophomore spoke calmly about what it's like to be hit by a locomotive.

McClure was southbound on the State Street's east sidewalk Friday afternoon, skateboarding toward Taco Bell. He was following a friend, who was on a bike.

At 4:48 p.m. the train crossing lights on State Street were activated and the gates lowered, to block north- and southbound traffic.

A Portland and Western Railroad locomotive was approaching the intersection at a 45-degree angle from McClure, on his left, as he skateboarded. But all McClure saw was the rubber crossing surface and the train tracks.

'I didn't hear or see anything,' he said. 'I was just looking forward and getting ready to gap over the rubber patch. As soon as I landed, I woke up 10 feet away, with my shoes off and a cop holding me down. I didn't think I was actually hit by a train.'

Meg Coryell, who was in the southbound lane of State Street, said she was two cars back from the crossing gate. The gate came down so swiftly, she said, that one driver was stuck in front of the gate and had to quickly reverse to get out of the way of the locomotive, which was not pulling any cargo.

Coryell said she then heard the train horn sound, and watched the locomotive suddenly come to a halt in the middle of State Street, with sparks flying from its wheels.

McClure had almost landed his jump over the tracks - or 'ollie' in skateboarding jargon - when the locomotive clipped his right side.

Not wearing a helmet, he landed hard and fractured his skull. He was taken to Oregon Health and Science University with a hematoma, bruised right elbow and scraped back. He spent three days in the intensive care unit and returned to his home in Lake Oswego Wednesday.

'For the first 10 minutes I was completely blind,' he said. 'I was screaming, 'Please, don't let me go blind!''

Jodi Roderick McClure said many of Kosh's friends and his 11-year-old sister Elle happened to be within a block of the accident and rushed to his side. His sister and a few friends were at Versis, a video game store on State Street. Another set of his friends saw the locomotive a couple hundred yards from State Street and noticed it was going fast, Jodi Roderick McClure said.

'He never heard or saw the train or even was aware of it,' she said. 'If he had been a 16th of a second slower, he would have been killed. He's an absolute walking, talking miracle. We are just the most blessed family to have a living son who has all his fingers and toes.'

McClure stressed that her son wasn't playing chicken with the locomotive or being a daredevil.

'He's a really good boy,' she said. 'I don't think he did anything wrong.'

Kosh said a jogger would have been 'sucked under the train.'

'I'm glad I was on a skateboard,' he added.

Lake Oswego Police Department Capt. Michael Hammons said the Portland and Western Railroad engineer 'hit the brakes when he saw (McClure) coming.' He said McClure was likely distracted by his skateboarding and the sound of vehicles on State Street.

Hammons said McClure should have been wearing a helmet, by state law, and his case was referred to juvenile court for a city ordinance regarding hazardous riding.

'He's lucky to be alive,' said Hammons.

He said he knew of no other pedestrian/train accidents ever at that intersection.

A spokesperson for Portland and Western Railroad could not be reached in time for Wednesday's deadline.

Hammons said trains have black boxes that record data such as the speed of the locomotive when it reached the intersection.

Jodi Roderick McClure said she would like to see a train alert system for pedestrians crossing the sidewalk on State Street.

'This is one of those absolutely bizarre, freak accidents,' she said. 'Hopefully, a positive message can come from this and they will have better markings on the sidewalk.'