For The Mountain Advocate
Jami Cook has a message for people regarding walking on railroad tracks following the death of her 18-year-old son and another young man early Tuesday morning.
“Stay off the railroad tracks. They are not safe. You can hear them coming. You can see them coming, but stay off them railroad tracks,” she said Tuesday. “Trains do run those tracks and they aren’t easy to stop.”
Cook’s oldest son, Jordan X. Carr, 18, of Williamsburg, and his friend, Cody E. Stevens, 18, of Barbourville, died after being struck by a northbound CSX train about 2 a.m. near Highway 26 at Underwood Road near the Family Dollar store.
Both were lying on the railroad tracks at the time they were struck by the train.
Based on conversations with the train crew, Whitley County Coroner Andy Croley said the two were apparently sleeping on the tracks.
Both men died instantly and were pronounced dead at the scene. Their bodies were transported to the State Medical Examiner’s Office in Frankfort for autopsy.
Cook said that emergency officials told her that the train engineer tried pulling the emergency brake about one mile from the location of her son and his friend, but that the train simply didn’t have enough time to stop.
Cook said that Stevens had been living at her home since Thursday, and was like another son to her. He even called her mom.
Cook said that Carr and Stevens got a ride to Corbin Monday from Stevens’ girlfriend, and were supposed to spend the night at a friend’s house. Unfortunately the friend had a seizure.
She got a call from her son saying that both he and Stevens were planning to walk home and follow the tracks because that route seemed faster.
She told them that was fine and just to be safe.
Cook said that she got a text from her son about 12:15 a.m. Tuesday saying, “Mom, we need you.”
Cook texted back that she had tried to call them but there was no answer and she asked what was wrong. Cook said that her son replied that they were hurting, really tired, and hungry and that Stevens was getting bad sick.
Carr asked her to try and get a hold of his mentor so they could get a ride from Whitley North Elementary School.
Carr then said he was nearly out of time on his phone.
Cook said she replied back that she was trying to get a hold of him.
“He said, ‘Please my phone is about dead mom,’” Cook said reading the text message exchange.
Cook replied that the mentor wasn’t answering.
Her son then texted, “We are cold, hurting, hungry and we can’t walk.”
Cook said that she then texted the number to her son, but the mentor still didn’t answer.
Cook said that she told her son to just keep going and to take the path of the train tracks because it was faster. She said that she assumed that they would walk along side the train tracks and not on them, and certainly not go to sleep on them.
At 12:59 a.m., Cook got a text again from her son that said they were walking again.
“I said, ‘You are not much further. You can do it,’” Cook noted. “He said, ‘I am worried about Cody. Can you please have us food and cool aid ready when we get home?’”
At 1:52 a.m., Cook said that she sent her son a text that read, “The front door is unlocked. Come in very quietly. There is cool aid. I made four sandwiches. You each get two. Be very quiet. Eat and get some sleep.”
Her son never responded back.
Croley estimated that the time of death was about 2 p.m. for both men.
Cook said that she woke up about 6:40 a.m. and texted her son asking where they were.
At 6:45 a.m., she sent another text that said, “I am officially freaking out now.”
Cook, who works at WEKC radio, then went downstairs from her apartment to put her kids on the bus at the radio station.
After the bus pulled out, she saw police cars and the coroner pull up and go upstairs.
She called her husband on the phone asking what was wrong, and was told her oldest son was dead.
“It devastated me,” Cook said. “He was my first born child. He was a good kid. He was always running the streets but he was a good-hearted person. He would do anything to help anybody. This is every mother’s worst nightmare. This is every father’s worst nightmare.”
Cook said that she has no idea why the two fell asleep on the train tracks.
As to whether the two were possibly drinking, Cook said that she simply does not know.
Her son was a typical 18-year-old and was honest with her about “some things” but not everything.
Carr was in the JROTC at Whitley County High School last year. He planned to get his GED and join the military.
“School was just not his forte,” Cook added.
Both young men planned to join the military.
Stevens planned to join the navy and Carr planned to join the army.
“His dream was to be in the military,” Cook said about her son. “My heart breaks just as sad for Cody. He was calling me mom and said he wished he had a mom like me.”
Croley and KSP Trooper David Lassiter are continuing the investigation.