Durham News

May 13, 2014

North Durham man killed by freight train

Police on Tuesday made public the name of a 31-year-old man who was struck and killed by a train the day before while walking on a section of railroad tracks in downtown Durham.

Police are still trying to determine why a man who was struck and killed by a freight train in downtown Durham on Monday failed to get off the tracks as the train approached.

was walking on the tracks on Tuesday made public the name of a 31-year-old man who was struck and killed by a train Monday while walking on a section of railroad tracks in downtown Durham.

Jerome Brandon of 407 Pineland Avenue in North Durham was pronounced dead at the scene near the intersection of Pettigrew and Dillard streets, said police spokesman Kammie Michael.

Police say an eastbound Norfolk Southern freight train struck Brandon while he was walking on the tracks about 4 p.m.

A man who called 911 told an emergency dispatcher that “a train hit somebody, or somebody jumped off the train.”

“The train was going pretty fast,” said the 911 caller, whose name was not made public. “I saw the guy get knocked down. He got knocked a pretty good little ways.”

The train stopped after the accident. Firefighters, emergency medical workers and the police who arrived closed down the intersection while investigating the collision.

The train was removed from the tracks four hours after the accident, at about 8 p.m., Michael reported.

Police are continuing their investigation. They are also trying to determine if drugs or alcohol played a role in the crash, Michael said on Tuesday.

The police spokeswoman said she did not know what the train was carrying or where it was en route to before the accident.

Brandon’s mother, Emma Thorpe Derefaka, said she did not hear about her son’s death until Tuesday morning. She works as a live-in certified nursing assistant and had been at work since Sunday. When she arrived home Tuesday morning, she had a voicemail message on her phone from a police detective, asking her to call.

Derefaka, who is 63, said her son, the youngest of her three boys, did not drive and that it was unusual for him to be on Fayetteville Street.

“Why was he over there? That’s what I’m trying to find out,” she said on Tuesday afternoon. “That’s not a normal side of town for him. I asked the detective this morning and she didn’t know anything.”

Derefaka last saw Brandon on Thursday. She said the two “had a little argument,” but she declined to say what the two were at odds about.

Brandon grew up in Durham and attended the county’s public schools before earning a general education diploma.

Derefaka described her son as “happy,” “funny,” and “very caring.”

Brandon owned lawn care tools; a mower, weed-eater, hedge clippers, shovels and rakes that he used to operate an informal lawn care business and take care of his neighbors’ yards.

Derefaka said she and her family members are lifelong Jehovah Witnesses, but Brandon had not attended worship services since he was a teenager.

His mother said he started regularly attending Kingdom Hall services again about a month ago.

“He was thinking about getting a Bible study group started,” Derefaka said.

Brandon was single. He lived with his mother and did not have any children.

Derefaka said the only thing she wanted her son to do was “keep my lawn mowed and wash my car.”

“Everybody liked him,” she said. “Everybody knew him in the neighborhood.”

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