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Woman with dementia hit, killed by train in Dayton, Kentucky

Police had assisted the victim the day before
Dayton Kentucky train crash
Posted at 9:36 AM, Jan 28, 2019

DAYTON, Ky. -- A woman with dementia was struck and killed by a train Monday morning, according to Dayton police.

Police on scene said the train operator saw Elsa Hall, 73, on the right side of the tracks, but operators were not able to stop the train in time. Police said Hall had wandered away from her home earlier Monday morning.

"I waved to her as I was driving by," said Kendra Abrams, who has lived in the area near the train tracks for 16 years.

"I had just left and I saw the woman walking up the hill. And then it's just all over the news. I come home and there's cops and news and people in front of my house," Abrams said.

The crossing arms and flashing lights came down as the CSX train traveled eastbound through the intersection at about 8:40 a.m., police said. Authorities believe Hall could have been confused by the lights and movement.

"We're thinking the lights and the loud horn and the dinging of railroad guardrails confused her a little bit," said Dayton Police Chief David Halfhill, "because they said she was rocking back and forth and she wasn't able to get out of the way and she was struck and killed."

Police estimated the train was traveling about 20 to 25 mph at the time of the crash which occurred on 6th Avenue between Main and Benham Streets.

Halfhill tells WCPO that officers were familiar with Hall and her illness. Officers assisted the woman on Sunday, the day before the deadly crash.

"She was wandering around in that area. We made contact with her to make sure she was OK," he said. "We followed her back home because she does wander from home."

There are an estimated 10,000 people living with Alzheimer's disease or dementia in Northern Kentucky, according to Elise Sebastian, program director at the Alzheimer's Association Greater Cincinnati Chapter.

"We work with families and explain to them that six out of ten people will wander at least once and the more often they wander, the more likely it is to become dangerous or even life threatening," Sebastian said.

Sebastian said warning signs include:

  • Returning from walks or drives later than usual.
  • Forgetting familiar places or faces.
  • Seeming confused in new environments.

Sebastian said reduce the risks of a loved one wandering away by establishing a daily routine, and look for signs there's been a change in a patient's daily activity. Also, work with neighbors, caregivers and local law enforcement for a team approach to keeping people with dementia safe.

"Just let the neighbors know that you are living with somebody with dementia," the police chief said. "If you see that person wander off give the police department a call or have a number to contact that family member because usually those family members aren't home. They have to work to support themselves and that other person in the home."

"Even wandering within the home. This disease comes with a lot of stigma and it's really hard on those primary caregivers," Sebastian said.

The Alzheimer's Association has a 24/7 helpline for families who need support taking care of a person with dementia. Call 800-272-3900 or click here for more information.

"Keep your family close. Check on your people. That's pretty much all you can really do," Abrams said.