Student's alcohol consumption cited in Saturday train accident

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- Charlottesville investigators may never know exactly why the student was on the 15th Street train tracks on Saturday night or how he was struck because alcohol was involved, according to police spokesperson Tony Newberry.

The Saturday incident is not the first time a University of Virginia student has been struck on that stretch of tracks.

In 2006, an intoxicated UVA grad student was hit and suffered serious leg injuries after falling unconscious on the tracks. Two other people had their feet severed on Charlottesville train tracks in the 1990s, according to media reports.

Drinking often precedes such accidents, and Saturday at UVA was the final home football game of the season, which makes it the last home game for students in their final year at the school.

It's also the day of the unofficial UVA tradition called the “Fourth-Year Fifth” in which some fourth-year students attempt to drink a fifth of alcohol, which is 25 ounces, on their own.

CBS19 has no information suggesting the victim of the Saturday train accident participated in that tradition, and UVA Police Officer Ben Rexrode says the school has focused efforts on preventing excessive drinking that weekend

In an emailed statement, Rexrode said, "Last week the Fourth-Year class president and vice president sent a message to their fellow classmates, and also shared a message from President Ryan over social media. In addition, students were encouraged to run in the ‘4th year 5k’ on Saturday and received peer-based messaging from student peer health educators."

Rexrode says year-over-year data shows those efforts had an impact.

This year, the UVA Police Department responded to just four incidents involving alcohol. Three of those required medical assistance and police made one arrest. That’s a 67 percent drop from last year, when UVA police responded to 12 incidents involving alcohol. Five required medical assistance and there were seven arrests.

The tracks along 15th Street are a popular short-cut for students walking from student housing to UVA Grounds. The fence was erected in 2014 to prevent trespassing, but it has been repeatedly damaged, according to Charlottesville City spokesperson Brian Wheeler.

According to Wheeler, the city’s Public Works Department last repaired the fence on Nov.7. It was damaged again by Nov. 9. The UVA student was hit the next day.

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