Commonwealth Journal

May 9, 2013

Police seek help locating family of man killed by train

by Chris Harris
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset —

Somerset Police are releasing the identity of a man who was struck and killed by a train last week in hopes of finding his next of kin.
Joseph Richardson, 28, is the man who apparently walked head-on into the path of an oncoming train on Tuesday, April 30 near the West Columbia Street railroad crossing.
“The decision to release the name has not been one that was taken lightly,” said Lt. Shannon Smith of the Somerset Police Depart-ment (SPD). 
“We wanted to make every effort possible to notify the family in person so they didn’t find out through a media outlet,” he added. “As it appears, we haven’t been able to do that. Releasing his name in the media seems to be the only resort we have left to get the word out to family members who may be out there that this has taken place.”
On April 30, responders received a call as reported by the Norfolk Southern train dispatcher, saying that the locomotive had collided with an individual on the tracks. Smith himself was using SPD’s Guardian One gyroplane at the time and spotted the victim a good distance away from the area that was reported.
Richardson’s body was located a short distance from West Columbia Street crossing, which was recently closed to car traffic. Smith said that it was evident the victim was headed northbound on the track, while the train was going south.
“For whatever reason, he didn’t see it; maybe he thought he was on a clean line, or a number of different things,” said Smith on Tuesday. “The fact is, he shared the same track (as the train) despite going in converging directions.”
Smith said that Richardson had lived in Somerset for the past few years, but may have originally been from northern Kentucky. He apparently had a couple of addresses on Ohio Street in Somerset, but the most recent one has been “vacant for some time,” according to Smith.
“The coroner’s office and police department both tracked down leads, neither of which had any success in identifying (Richardson’s) immediate or extended family,” said Smith. “We tried to make contact with people we think are acquaintances of his, and that proved to be unsuccessful.”
Smith said the decision to release the identity was discussed “a number of times” with Pulaski County Coroner Chuck Godbey in their collaborative efforts to locate the victim’s family members.
If the body isn’t claimed, the county will pay for Richardson’s funeral services and burial.
“I feel certain the release of this person’s identity in the media may help to bring a member of the family forward,” said Smith.
If you know Richardson’s family, please contact the Somerset Police Department at (606) 678-5176 or the Pulaski County Coroner’s Office at (606) 679-1850 during normal business hours. After hours, please call the Pulaski 911 Center for assistance.
The investigation is continuing on what causes or contributing factors lead to Richardson being struck by the train.