'It's gut-wrenching to see the pain:' Gervais mourns boy hit by train

'It's gut-wrenching to see the pain:' Gervais mourns boy hit by train
Diego Rodriguez

GERVAIS, Ore. – In a town of 2,500, one loss is deeply felt.

The tiny town of Gervais was in shock on Wednesday after the death of 13-year-old Diego Rodriguez, who was hit by an Amtrak train while walking along the tracks with a friend on Tuesday evening.

“It’s gut-wrenching to see the pain that is around this town, and especially our staff and students,” said Gervais superintendent Rick Hensel. “The students, especially the ones I’ve seen and interacted with, are not able to talk. They’re really distraught.”

The Marion County Sheriff's Office said Rodriguez and a 14-year-old boy were walking from Woodburn to Gervais and used the tracks for a shortcut.

There is a parallel set of tracks, and deputies believe the boys thought the train – which was coming from behind them – was on the other set.

Rhylee Farrens, who is 15, said he’s known Rodriguez since the two started riding bikes together when Farrens was 7.

“I feel worse than I did yesterday,” Farrens said. “ It actually hit me that my friend’s gone and I’m not going to be able to see him again.

“He was a kind person. He had a really good heart.”

Deputies said the train was traveling from Seattle to Eugene when the engineer saw a shadow on the tracks and hit the brakes hard. The train was carrying 65 passengers and 14 cars.

Nobody else was hurt.

Hensel said counselors had been brought in both to Samuel Brown Academy – the alternative school Rodriguez attended – and Gervais Middle School, which many of his friends attend.

“It’s just difficult to grasp how quickly a life can pass, and really how affected a small community like this can be when you have a tragedy occur,” Hensel said.