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Oct 23, 3:05 PM EDT

Oregon boy killed by train was miles from home


SALEM, Ore. (AP) -- An Oregon boy fatally struck by a train this week was roughly 7 miles from where he was supposed to be - waiting at school for his mother to pick him up from soccer practice.

Juan Carlos Robles-Melara, 13, of Woodburn died while walking on the tracks Tuesday night near Gervais. He was apparently alone, leaving unknown the reason why he wandered so far.

Robles-Melara was supposed to be at French Prairie Middle School. The family searched for the boy and then went to the Woodburn Police Department to report him missing.

While taking the report, police learned a pedestrian had been hit by a train. They were able to quickly identify the victim, based on a clothing description and school identification found in his backpack.

Police described Robles-Melara as a "high-functioning child with autism." He was a seventh-grader who participated fully with the general education students, said Chuck Ransom, superintendent of the Woodburn School District.

"As of now, we're dealing with the immediate fallout," Ransom said. "Kids at that age, it's tough on them. It's tough at any age to understand things like this. But we appreciate everyone's concern and support, especially in our neighboring districts."

The train tracks are a well-known shortcut between the Marion County cities of Woodburn, Gervais and Brooks. All are about 35 miles south of Portland.

The incident mirrors one a year ago and near the same area in which another 13-year-old boy was killed after walking on the same rail line. A friend who was uninjured told deputies that the boys were using the tracks as a shortcut to walk to Woodburn.

They had reportedly seen the approaching train, but believed it was on the other set of tracks.

Seventeen pedestrians were killed on railroads in Marion County between 2001 and 2012, according to the Federal Railroad Administration.

Brandy Davidson, who has lived near the tracks her entire life, told KATU-TV she sees people walking the rail line every day, even though it's illegal.

"It's sad but we expected it as soon as we saw the cops pull up," Davidson said.

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Information from: Statesman Journal, http://www.statesmanjournal.com

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