Moorhead man killed by train
A 54-year-old Moorhead man died early Saturday after being struck by a westbound train near 16th Street and Main Avenue in Moorhead, police said. James Frank Gillitzer, 223 16th St N., died after he fell in front of the BNSF train at approximatel...
A 54-year-old Moorhead man died early Saturday after being struck by a westbound train near 16th Street and Main Avenue in Moorhead, police said.
James Frank Gillitzer, 223 16th St N., died after he fell in front of the BNSF train at approximately 12:15 a.m., said Lt. Brad Penas of the Moorhead Police Department.
Gillitzer's son, Dan, said his father was at J.C. Chumley's with friends watching the University of Minnesota's opening hockey game against RPI on Friday evening.
He said police told him his father left the bar, 1608 Main Ave, and accidentally stumbled in front of the train while walking northbound.
The incident is still under investigation, police said.
Gillitzer's body was transported to the Ramsey County Medical Examiner's Office in St. Paul for an autopsy.
Lt. Chris Carey of the Moorhead Police Department said alcohol was a factor in Gillitzer's death, but authorities can't speculate on the man's blood-alcohol level until a toxicology report is completed.
"Initial evidence leads us to believe that the victim was coherent to know the train was coming," Carey said, noting in previous alcohol-related train fatalities, victims didn't have the capacity to identify a moving train.
"This victim knew the train was coming, tried to beat the train and unfortunately tripped."
A man who identified himself as Gillitzer's brother who intercepted a phone call at Gillitzer's Moorhead home said the family doesn't want to discuss the accident.
"His family isn't doing really good right now," said Gillitzer's brother.
Gillitzer was a regular at J.C. Chumley's and well-liked by patrons and employees alike, the bar's staff said.
People were still reeling from Gillitzer's accident at J.C. Chumley's on Saturday afternoon.
Gillitzer visited the bar often when he wasn't hunting or fishing or working as a foreman at Fargo-based Minko Construction, staff members said.
"He was very well-liked and very well thought of by everyone. We are all in shock. We feel like we've lost one of our own," said Gary Peterson, owner of J.C. Chumley's.
"We express our deepest sympathy to his family and feel the same way. He will be missed by all."
Marissa Giesinger, a bartender at J.C. Chumley's, said she and the bar's staff considered Gillitzer more of a friend than a customer.
"He was a part of our extended family. We will miss him greatly," she said.
Gillitzer's death marks the third train fatality in Fargo-Moorhead this year.
In May, 21-year-old Adam Bertek was killed by a train near Eighth Street and Main Avenue in Moorhead. The Concordia College student and West Fargo native was attempting to catch up with friends on the other side of the tracks after leaving Mick's Office shortly after 1 a.m.
Three days later, 73-year-old Theodore Hanson died after being struck by a westbound BNSF Railway coal train at 10:25 a.m. near the intersection of Fourth Street and Main Avenue in Fargo.
It is believed that Hanson was trying to make his bus at the Metro Area Transit bus terminal, 502 NP Ave., when he was struck and killed, Fargo police said.
Information about funeral arrangements for Gillitzer wasn't available Saturday.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Melinda Rogers at (701) 241-5524 Moorhead man killed by train Melinda Rogers 20071014