Firefighter struck, killed by train during search

By WTAJ News

Published 03/24 2014 10:40AM

Updated 03/24 2014 01:08PM

NORTH VERSAILLES TOWNSHIP, ALLEGHENY COUNTY – A 57-year-old volunteer firefighter was struck and killed by a train Saturday night while searching for a woman who has been missing for nearly one week.

According to our news partner KDKA, Edwin "Lance" Wentzel was hit from behind by a Norfolk Southern freight train while walking near railroad tracks.

“I was shooting video, I was zoomed in, and the guy was walking along the gravel,” said KDKA photographer Bryce Lutz, who witnessed the incident. “He walked up onto the tracks and he didn’t see the train coming, didn’t hear it – I don’t know – but it just hit him.”

Wentzel was a 35-year veteran of the Youngwood Volunteer Fire Deaprtement in Westmoreland County. He was part of a team that brought canines to help search for 55-year-old Ruth Mullennix of Wilmerding, who has been missing since the evening of March 17th.

After the collision, the official search was immediately suspended. Officials from Norfolk Southern released a statement to KDKA saying they were not asked to stop the trains Saturday.

“The search team had contacted NS to stop trains in the area Thursday at 12:30 a.m. to conduct its search. NS stopped all traffic in compliance with that request. The search team withdrew that request about three hours later at 3:23 a.m., at which point Norfolk Southern resumed normal train operations. Neither the NS police nor the NS Pittsburgh dispatch center were notified on Saturday before the search team resumed its search on Norfolk Southern’s property,” the statement read.

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