The sights along the Seward Highway attract visitors from all over the nation -- but those same sights may be drawing people into dangerous situations, after an Alaska Railroad train had to make an emergency stop to avoid hitting dozens of children sitting on the tracks.
Tourists Derrell and Dot Dore, visiting from Louisiana, saw the chaperoned group of day campers from Camp Bear Valley near the scenic highway south of Anchorage.
“We saw some children, family members sitting on a railroad track, taking pictures,” Dot Dore said.
Railroad spokesperson Tim Sullivan said the group forced a Spencer Glacier passenger train to stop at Bird Point at about 10:45 a.m. Wednesday.
Sullivan said the train's engineer spotted the kids -- nearly 50 of them, plus a dozen leaders -- spread out along three-tenths of a mile of tracks ahead of the train.
"There were some on the tracks, some on the right-of-way -- which is also trespassing -- but they were all along the track in a very dangerous situation," Sullivan said. "Very unsafe situation for the kids, for the chaperones, for our employees and for our passengers."
The train, which was traveling at about 40 mph, stopped with about 500 feet to spare.
The director of the Bear Valley Community Association tells Channel 2 no one was hurt and that the kids were never in danger -- but railroad police cited her for reckless endangerment for allowing the kids to get too close to the tracks.
Sullivan says any incident like Wednesday's is one too many.
“If we’re trying to stop that much train, a lot of train in a short amount of time over a short distance, it can cause derailment or even injuries on the train,” he said.
In a Wednesday statement, BVCA's board said it was looking into how the situation took place.
“Bear Valley Community Association did not approve nor does it condone the activity that occurred today. We are deeply disturbed by this incident and are investigating to ensure it never happens again.”
An Alaska Railroad train struck and killed 72-year-old Joyce Kusmider in October 2009 on tracks near Potter Marsh, slightly north of Wednesday's emergency stop. Kusmider may have been taking pictures when she was hit.
Email Christine Kim