SLIDELL, LA (WVUE) - Slidell police have an important message for the public: Don't walk on railroad tracks. This comes after a 16-year-old was hit and killed by a train Wednesday morning on his way to school on the tracks between North Boulevard and Lafayette Street.
The death of James Pulsifer is hitting the Slidell community hard.
"I'm really sorry for the family," Mike Smith said.
Sara Groglio adds, "It's a tragedy, absolutely."
"The conductor stated that when he was approaching, he saw somebody walking in the railroad tracks, and he had headphones on. He hit the emergency breaks, blew the horn, and the person didn't see," Slidell Police Dept. Det. Daniel Seuzeneau said.
Pulsifer died on the scene shortly after 7 a.m.
"Wearing headphones along railroad tracks, obviously very dangerous. Based on the research I looked at this morning, it happens quite often throughout the United States," Seuzeneau said.
Parents and teens we spoke to Wednesday night say they're not surprised to hear headphones played a role.
"The danger is from wearing headphones, you can't hear anything around you, so your surroundings are - you're unaware," Patrick Carroll said.
"I know my kids, they listen to their headphones and they don't listen to me, or they don't hear things that are going on, so I'm sure it's a concern for most parents," Mike Smith said.
Walking on railroad tracks is illegal but Seuzeneau admits it's hard to enforce the law and change the misconception that tracks are safer than walking in the street.
"Five minutes before us having this conversation, there were three kids walking along this railroad track to come to the store, and I told them, I said, guys, you can't be out here doing it. And they didn't know. They don't realize the dangers," Seuzeneau said.
The police department hopes, if anything, James Pulsifer's tragic death will serve as a teaching moment to keep others safe.
Seuzeneau spoke with Pulsifer's family Wednesday afternoon and said they are understandably shocked and distraught.
The police department didn't want to release which school the teen was walking to.