Boundary County authorities have identified one of the two people struck and killed by a Burlington Northern train Monday, but say the cause of the accident is still a mystery.
A BN engineer found the bodies of a man and a woman early Monday morning near a crossing about two miles east of town.
The man was identified as Michael Cooper, 21, of Bonners Ferry. Cooper was a member of the Kootenai Indian Tribe and worked at the tribe’s fish hatchery just northwest of the city.
Kevin Hayes, chief deputy for the Boundary County Sheriff’s Department, said officials believe they know the woman who was killed but are waiting for positive identification from fingerprints.
The couple was struck by an eastbound train sometime between 12:30 a.m. and 6:43 a.m. Monday. Alcohol was found at the scene of the accident.
Hayes said the couple was seen drinking in town Sunday evening but did not appear to be intoxicated.
“We still don’t know why they were out there or where they were headed,” Hayes said.
It was possible the victims were going to a popular swimming hole on the Kootenai River or to the woman’s home which was not far away. The two were struck near a road that crosses the tracks. They apparently walked to the area. No car was found nearby.
“I don’t know that we will ever know for sure what happened, but it appears accidental,” said Hayes, adding that suicide and foul play have been ruled out.
Authorities still haven’t located the train that struck the couple. BN officials stopped several trains Monday and Tuesday to check for any signs of an accident but found nothing.
Hayes said it would be difficult to find any evidence because trains strike objects on the tracks all time, including animals.
About 30 trains a day use the section of track and are typically traveling about 45 mph.
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