EDMONTON — Edmonton police are trying to sort out conflicting reports about the deaths of two teenagers killed by a commuter train on Tuesday.
Some witnesses say the young man and his girlfriend had been fighting and that he pinned her to the tracks as the train roared over them.
But relatives and at least one friend who were with them that night say they don’t believe that’s what happened.
“The homicide section has been brought on to assist with the investigation,” police spokesman Chad Orydzuk said Wednesday. “They’re going to determine whether the deaths were accidental or whether they were criminal.
“The man and woman were on the tracks when they were struck by the train. We just don’t know why they were stopped on those tracks.”
Relatives have identified the victims as Jamie Kootenay and Delia Papastesis, both 19. They had been dating four years and had both attended Amiskwaciy Academy, a public school geared toward aboriginal studies.
Police say they were among a group of six young people walking and running around the tracks near Commonwealth Stadium, in the city’s northeast, in the darkness around 8:15 p.m. Tuesday.
CTV Edmonton quoted one unnamed witness as saying that just before the accident, Kootenay had been chasing Papastesis down the track.
But a friend of Kootenay’s who was with them at the time denied that he pushed her to the ground and held her until the train ran them over.
“Jamie wouldn’t hold down Delia like that,” said Nolan Shone. “They both were happy-go-lucky people. They were in love with each other.”
The train, carrying 50 people, had just left the Commonwealth Stadium station heading north to its next stop. The trains can get up to speeds of 60 km/h.
Kootenay died at the scene while it took rescue crews an hour to pull Papastesis out from the undercarriage. She died in hospital soon after.
An autopsy was conducted on the victims Wednesday, but it wasn’t clear when results would be released.
Orydzuk said they have talked to the four other youths in the group, but want to talk to other witnesses.
“Some of the other witnesses driving in the area or stopped at the LRT crossing — we definitely need them to come forward if they haven’t already,” he said.
“It’s important we do a thorough investigation and find out what happened.”
Sobbing relatives of both teens gathered at the scene Wednesday to lay flowers on the tracks.
Papastesis’s sister Jennifer Lake was still trying to cope with the images she saw when she arrived on the scene while paramedics were working on the young woman.
“I saw them try to pull my little sister out,” Lake said, sobbing uncontrollably. “She was a happy girl. She graduated — she was the only one that graduated out of all of us.”
Another sister, Janice Randhile, said she had just seen both of them hours before the tragedy.
“I know they had their problems but I don’t know if that’s the cause of what happened,” she said.
Kootenay’s aunt, Rhonda Alexis, said her nephew was a good boy and she doesn’t believe he would have hurt his girlfriend.