18-year-old dies laying between train tracks near Metro Rail's Utica Station

Posted at 1:35 AM, Jul 26, 2016

Metro Rail service was suspended overnight as the Niagara Frontier Transit Authority's Transit Police investigated a death near the system's Utica Station.

A Metro Rail operator notified the NFTA control center that the train may have hit someone in the tunnel between the Utica and Summer/Best stations around 11:30 p.m. Monday.

Responding Transit Police officers found 18-year-old Kanu Kasonko dead on the train tracks.

"This individual was not struck on a platform, was not struck at a station. They were in a prohibited area of the tunnel," said NFTA Transit Police Chief George W. Gast.

Police say Kasonko was a refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, along with his family.

Police have interviewed train operators as well as Kasonko's brother and mother.

"His brother was interviewed last night. We got a statement from his brother," said Gast. "We got a limited statement from his mother due to the language barrier. At four o'clock in the morning you have police knocking on your door to give you this type of news. It was not easy to interview either one of them." 

During the investigation Transit Police and the Erie County Medical Examiner have determined Kasonko was laying on his back in the middle of the inbound side on track one, south of the Utica station.   

"He entered the Utica station, gone down onto the track level and shortly after his arrival on the track level had gone down into the track bed and proceeded to walk and then run southbound on the inbound track," said Gast.

Not long after that Gast said a train running northbound came down the track because the NFTA is running on a single track. 

"There's no indication of foul play. The individual in question willfully entered a prohibited are of the track bed," said Gast. 

When asked if there was any way Kasonko could have avoided being hit by the train, Gast said he could have stood up on the pillar section in the middle of the tracks. On the other side of the train, Gast said there's only 14 inches between the train and outside wall. 

According to police this is only the second train death they've dealt with. The last death was in 1990. 

"An individual purposefully jumped in front of a train," said Gast. "That death was ruled a suicide at that time."

Police are still investigating to determine why Kasonko was inside the tunnel on the tracks.