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article imageHopping prairie train almost costs rider his life

By Ken Wightman     Dec 18, 2009 in World
A Wetaskiwin, Alberta, man took the train ride to end all train rides, or at least it could have been: To save time walking a few blocks home in -20C cold, he hopped a slow-moving freight train. But it didn't remain slow-moving; it sped up!
Jonathan Hambler, 29, had enjoyed a few drinks with a friend at a Wetaskiwin, Alberta, bar and then he escorted his inebriated buddy home. -20C is dangerously cold, especially if you're not thinking clearly.
It's too bad there wasn't someone to escort Hambler. Seeing a slow-moving freight train, Hambler decided to save a little time and ride the rails a few blocks. He'd be home in moments. Perfect.
When the train sped up, Hambler knew he was in trouble. He gripped the freezing metal bar on the end of the car with his bare hands and held on for his life - literally. The train was barreling out of town!
The cold prairie air seemed to clear the novice train hopper's head and he reached for his cell phone, dialing 911. But his problems were not over; In the fierce cold his cell's battery was showing signs of dying. Neither Hambler nor his cell were prepared for the frigid prairie night. Hambler had neither hat nor gloves and he was losing body heat. It was a question whether it would be the cell or the rider who lasted the longest.
The 911 operator immediately contacted the RCMP, who discovered there were two trains that Hambler could be riding. How to quickly determine which was the correct one? Even over a cell phone, it was clear from Hambler's responses that he was becoming hypothermic; he was freezing to death.
The police devised a plan. They called the engineers of both trains and told them to blow their whistles on cue. When Hambler, still on his cell, confirmed that he had heard a locomotive's horn, it was clear which train he was riding.
The freight immediately stopped and Hambler was found stiff with cold between two cars. He was beginning to drift in and out of consciousness. Barely able to appreciate that his ride of more than an hour was over, he was given a some warm jackets, welcome toques, and afterwards an unwelcome, but well earned, $287 fine for trespass.
More about Alberta, Hypothermia, Freight train
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