Pair Found Dead in Coal Sought Freedom of Rails (1 Viewer)

Matt Derrick

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http://www.theledger.com/article/20111214/NEWS/111219591/0/COLUMNISTS0804?p=1&tc=pg

LAKELAND | Christopher Artes had dreamed about the journey since he was a teenager.

His trip finally began one night in June, when he climbed into a railcar in Baltimore, leaving his home without a map, an itinerary or a specific destination.

For months, he crisscrossed the country — Pittsburgh, Chicago, Atlanta, Memphis, Tenn. — hitching truck rides and hopping trains.

His meandering trip ended at McIntosh Power Plant, where workers found his body and that of Medeana Dina Hendershot of South Carolina this week among several thousand pounds of coal. Artes, 25, and Hendershot, 22, may have been aboard a coal train that arrived late Saturday night in Lakeland, police said. The couple appeared to have died as the coal, about 12,500 tons total, was dumped from the train, plunging the equivalent of multiple stories.

Artes grew up in the Baltimore area, said his mother, Susie Artes, 62, who adopted him when he was a newborn.

At 16, he fell in with a group of kids who mingled with a network of "travelers," people who knew which railyards to linger in for a ride and who didn't stay in one place too long. He developed a romantic vision of one day living outdoors and traveling from town to town as they did.

"With the traveling, it seemed almost like you could go anywhere and be anyone and it would be exciting all the time," his mother said. "There would be this wonderful freedom to be whoever you wanted to be."

Artes hopped his first train when he was 22 and rode from Baltimore to New York City, she said. He once had a book, an underground guide to hopping trains, that circulated among his friends.

The day he left in June, she took him to Kmart and bought him rugged shoes for traveling. He spent the rest of the day packing and repacking, trying to decide how much to bring in the way of warm clothes.

"He knew we were worried about him. He knew we were scared," she said Wednesday from her home in Baltimore. "There wasn't any way in the world anybody could talk him out of this."
Artes eventually traveled to South Carolina to meet Hendershot, she said. They had only known each other through friends. But after a week together, they fell in love. They wore rings and told friends they were married.

As he traveled, Artes called his mother and sent her pictures. Two weeks ago, the couple reached Miami, where a stranger allowed them to stay in his apartment for a week.

They traveled to Orlando and then to Georgia, where they decided to head south again for warm weather.

He last called his mother at 2 p.m. Saturday, Susie Artes said. He also sent her pictures of where they were camping near a train overpass, but she was uncertain of their exact location.

Artes was a mix of streetwise and naive. He was savvy enough to hitch a free ride, she said, but lacked the foresight to anticipate the danger that awaited him.

"If there's any consolation in this, it was that he was happy," she said. "And it happened so quickly that he didn't realize it."

The train that arrived in Lakeland that night had about 120 cars, each carrying 100 tons of coal, said Tony Candales, an assistant general manager at Lakeland Electric. As it pulled into the plant, the train's boxcars would have opened on the bottom, emptying the coal.

"It's quite a drop," Candales said.

The boxcars had open tops, which would have allowed someone to lie on the coal.

"It's hard for me to imagine," he said. "But obviously it can be done."

Hendershot died from injuries received from a blunt force delivered to her torso, said Dr. Vera Volnikh, a Polk County associate medical examiner. The injury could have been received while falling from the boxcar.

Volnikh hasn't yet determined Artes' cause of death. She said the tumbling coal could have cut off his oxygen, causing him to suffocate.

"If he gets covered by that amount of coal, he wouldn't have any way to breathe," she said. "It's like being in a grave."

[ Matthew Pleasant can be reached at [email protected] or 863-802-7590. ]
 
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dartagnan

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Yet another creative way ( hadn't thought of) to die riding a train. that's intense. my respect goes out to his friends and family of course
 

HUMANCONTRAST

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damn thats brutal. i never ride coal mainly because of that reason. the only time i rode coal i rode in the dpu. riding coal freaks me out...thats so terrible that happened. rip.
 

highwayman

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Sad to see that they "shared a passion for illegaly hoping freight trains & and traveling across the country without a set plan" in the first sentence. Thank you Eric Pfeifer for criminalizing the dead. Does he believe all trespassers deserve to die for commiting petty victomless crimes & or for chosing the wrong ride & for actually traveling without a plan? Doesnt he realize that Americans have a passion for freedom & doing what they want. Americans favorite tv shows & movies are about criminals,mobsters, drugdealers, smugglers etc & even Discovery is capitilizing on a petty crime that has shaped our country with its new show Moonshiners. I fear that someday the appetite of american viewers will consume everything that we participate in. I am sure those deadliest catch camera men would be both willing & able to follow different groups & people on the rails. A&E could easily get people to watch a show on Squatting, like other reality shows they could follow multiple groups with a competition type theme with most being evicted by commando style police forces. Its sad that the media profits on others misfortune.
 

Nana

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Yeah, the only time I ride coal is if it's got a DPU. They must have been asleep or passed out...
 

Redd Capp

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My take here is that they were stuck in the coal car when it got loaded at the mine. Once in a empty coal car there is no way out and coal dust makes the sides slippery. So imagine the horror of lining up and the train slowly going thru the mine loader at 3 miles per hour while the train is "flood loaded" while you are waiting to be buried alive under 100 tons of coal. There are cameras at the mine loader and somebody should have caught this but missed it. As far as being dumped there is a lag time of couple hours between when the train gets to the power plant and is unloaded so there was plenty of time to get off. However would could go in hypo thermia in late fall and pass out from that as this was reported in Duluth-Superier
 
O

OFFER

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kinda dumb and irresponsibe, but its still a tragic loss of life......rip
 

Cool Breeze

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yea Chris was a cool kid youd think somewhere at the Coalmine there wouldve been a Camera for that reason but not required by law i guess To many ppl die cause they dont know how to ride properly or get advise from an oogle hate to see anyone die like that it takes a tragedy to get the point to some ppl i met a couple oogles in Birmingham AL they looked like they just ran into a barbed wire fence one had 122 stitches on his face broke arm almost lost his leg or life the other cut up bad bragged they rode suicide from Montgomery it was summer time i thought between Bham an Monkey town theres no towers if you cant find a grainer with a floor ride the roof just get off before you get to the yd
 
L

LeftCoast

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I remember an old timer telling me a story about belting yourself in to the top. He always traveled with climbing gear so he would be able to ride more dangerous rides without dying. He told me he would have rather ride an oil tank than a coal car any day of the week. I met him in Birmingham outside of a gas station. We went together to atlanta, and he taught me some tricks that kept me out of some super scary neighborhoods. Has anyone else used climbing gear to strap themselves along the ladder as they rest on the coal? Imagine how the hell this old fart found out about this trick. it blows my mind. i have personally taken some precautions to ride some shitty rides, but nothing to this extent. sounds pretty bitchin if i say so myself.
 
K

Kim Chee

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Has anyone else used climbing gear to strap themselves along the ladder as they rest on the coal? Imagine how the hell this old fart found out about this trick. it blows my mind. i have personally taken some precautions to ride some shitty rides, but nothing to this extent. sounds pretty bitchin if i say so myself.
Old ass hobos back in steam train days used to use their belts to secure themselves to the train when an open boxcar wasn't available. Then the railroads began purchasing more "hobo friendly" railcars making this trick unnecessary and a lost art.
I don't think I'd be too comfortable letting a belt hold my weight, but I guess it could keep you from falling off in some instances. Don't ride dangerous cars. Be patient and wait for the right ride or we'll have to read about another senseless tragedy all too soon.
 

finn

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...Has anyone else used climbing gear to strap themselves along the ladder as they rest on the coal?...
I've done something like that, but I also have my own quick release setup that I've designed and tested myself, so that it doesn't end up killing me. Keep in mind that I'm familiar with rockclimbing equipment, having used it over five years before that. The main problem is that the equipment does take up space and weight, unless you design the harness into your pants, which I was getting tempted to do. The other thing is that rideables are really not that hard to find, and the rides you can catch with the setup end up leaving you exposed most of the time. I ended up deciding it wasn't really worth carrying around.
 

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