Death on track
By BELINDA SCOTT
COFFS HARBOUR was still coming to terms yesterday with the death of 15-year-old schoolboy Chad Kelso.
The Year 10 Coffs Harbour High School student was hit by a northbound XPT passenger train about 1am on Sunday as he tried to cross the Coffs Creek railway bridge near the Pet Porpoise Pool.
'RIP Chad 2005' was the message in chalk and paint on the Coffs Creek railway bridge yesterday, as school friends and neighbours came to terms with their sudden loss.
Friends of the 15-year-old scaled the southern abutment of the bridge yesterday to place flowers on the chain link fence near where he had died.
Police said the train driver had been unable to stop the train in time to avoid hitting the teenager, who was trying to get away from the oncoming train.
He was flung off the bridge and thrown into the water, about four metres below. Police recovered his body from Coffs Creek a short time later.
The train, which was carrying 200 passengers, was stopped for about an hour before continuing on to Grafton.
Friends of Chad said he had been attending a big beach party on the Jetty Foreshores but they did not know why he was on the railway bridge, which is only 40 metres from the pedestrian footbridge over Coffs Creek.
The bridge was not on his way to his home in Logwood Street off Thompsons Road.
There is a 1.8m-high chain-link fence on both sides of the North Coast rail line from the level crossing at the Jetty Foreshores to the bridge and then right through to the railway bridge over the Pacific Highway. Some sections are damaged and there is evidence that it is regularly accessed at several points.
While up to 22 trains a day cross the bridge, including six passenger trains, the train-line was quiet for about an hour before the XPT arrived, giving Chad time to have walked along the track from the Jetty level crossing.
Chad was described by a neighbour as about 176cm (5ft 9in) tall and thin, with wavy dark brown hair and a fondness for playing pranks.
The principal of Coffs Harbour High school, Mr Ken Butcher, said extra counselling services had been brought in and members of staff had taken time off classes to support the students yesterday.
Mr Butcher said Chad had been one of the first people to greet him when he arrived at the school two years ago and had been at school last week.
He said Chad had been at Coffs Harbour High School since Year 7 and although he had been 'a bit of a loner', he was one of those kids 'that everyone knew'.
Chad's fellow students Blaire Wool-veridge, 15, and Emma Cosgrove, 14, were among those placing flowers on the fence for Chad yesterday.
Neither had attended the beach party.
Blaire said she had been friends with Chad since Primary school.
"He might have looked like a dag, but he was a really nice person on the inside," she said.
"I think he just couldn't get over the bridge on time," Emma said.
Blaire said Chad had been keen to get back to school after a recent suspension and a neighbour said Chad had told her he was very determined to complete Year 10.
A post-mortem will be conducted and the date for his funeral is expected to be known today.
It remains unknown why Chad was on the bridge at the time of the accident.