Fresno boy running in train's path killed

A Cooper Middle School student running across a railroad track trying to beat a train was struck and killed late Thursday afternoon in northwest Fresno.

The unidentified eighth-grader was walking south on Fruit Avenue just south of Ashlan Avenue shortly before 5 p.m. as the southbound Burlington Northern-Santa Fe train approached, Fresno police said.

The victim had been walking with three boys before he started to run, despite the others yelling at him to stop.

"I honestly thought he was going to stop," said Najee Williams, 13.

"There was no way he was going to make it."

Najee and the other two boys said as the train crossed Fruit they saw a shoe fly in the air and then heard some girls on the other side of the track scream.

The boy was thrown about 150 feet to the far side of the tracks after being struck by the train, said Sgt. Greg Noll.

Ronnie Holley, 13, one of the four boys who had been walking together, said he watched in disbelief as the victim tried to beat the train.

"He kept running and running," Ronnie said.

"I said, 'No, you're not going to make it. Stop running.' "

Noll said the safety arms were down and the red lights were flashing at the railroad crossing at the time of the accident.

Najee said he, Ronnie, the victim and another boy -- Rodney Green, 12 -- were going to Najee's home to get a basketball.

They had planned to play at Williams Elementary School, just down the street from the accident.

Najee said he and the victim were friends and fellow students at Cooper Middle School.

"He was a funny kid," Najee said. "He was real cool."

Psychologists will be at the boy's school today and letters will be sent to parents explaining the accident, said Susan Bedi, Fresno Unified School District spokeswoman.

"On behalf of Fresno Unified, we are deeply saddened by this tragedy," she said. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family."