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Arizona teenager recovers from being hit by freight train

KINGMAN, Ariz. — A Kingman teenager who cheated death has his life back on track after being struck by a train early this year.

Adrian Alatorre accidentally stepped face first into a locomotive traveling about 35 mph on Feb. 16.

He was on foot, delivering brownies to a co-worker who had had a bad day. Alatorre was listening to his iPod when he approached the tracks near a crossing that had been closed years ago.

He waited for a westbound train to clear, crossed the first set of tracks and was struck by a Burlington Northern & Santa Fe freight train bearing down from the other direction.

“It was really careless on my part,” Alatorre said. “Everybody knows better.”

All that he recalls is the sensation of an incisor being driven into his nasal cavity. The 18-year-old broke every bone in his face as well as an ankle, femur and his pelvis.

Alatorre spent more than two weeks at Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center and nearly three weeks more at a residential rehabilitation center in Las Vegas before he was allowed to return to Arizona.

Memory of his hospital stay was numbed by morphine and other medications, which inspired him to romance staff.

“I asked several nurses to marry me,” Alatorre said. “I was very, very sedated.”

While his fractured jaw was wired shut, a liquid diet disrupted his love affair with food. Alatorre remembers his first spoonful of peanut butter as a meaningful milestone along his road to recovery.

“That was really the first thing that was awesome, like YES!” he said.

Alatorre returned to Kingman March 22 and was back to work at Starbucks on May 11.

All his customers can see from the crash is a scar along his lower lip. He’s playing guitar again, rock climbing and mountain biking his favorite trails, undaunted by anyone urging him to take it easy.

“If anything, this is going to make me push more because there are things I wanted to do before, but I thought, ‘No, it’s not practical,’ ” Alatorre said. “Well, getting hit by a train and living isn’t practical either.”

Capt. Rusty Cooper said he’s handled more than 10 pedestrian-train fatalities during almost 20 years with the Police Department. He said the aftermath of the collisions can be long-lasting for railroad and emergency service personnel.

“It’s not a fun thing to have to pick up body parts along the train tracks,” Cooper said. “It is something that sticks with you.”

Designated public crossings with either a crossbuck, flashing lights or a gate are the only safe point for pedestrian crossing, said Lena Kent, spokeswoman for Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railroad.

“If you cross at any other place, you are trespassing and can be ticketed or fined,” Kent said. “It can take a mile or more to stop a train, so a locomotive engineer who suddenly sees someone on the tracks will likely be able to stop in time.”

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