UPDATE 5/13/13 @ 6:15 p.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- There's some concern about the state of a pedestrian walkway tunnel that goes underneath train tracks in West Huntington after a man was killed by a train early Sunday morning.
Police said Kevin Tierney, 55, of Huntington and his girlfriend crossed the tracks instead of using the tunnel. That happened about 1 a.m. Sunday after they left The Paddock Club along West 5th Street and 8th Avenue. Tierney's girlfriend told police they didn't use the tunnel because she was afraid and it was usually dark.
"It's dangerous cause it's pitch dark," Philip Frank, one of Tierney's friends, said. "It's not safe going down there."
Frank admitted he often crosses the tracks himself because he doesn't like to use the tunnel. He said he has seen people down there drinking before, and he believes he's seen drug deals take place.
The tunnel is lit by five overhead lights, spaced throughout the entire length of the tunnel. During the daytime, when the lights aren't on, the tunnel is dim. David Hagley, Huntington's director of public works, said the lights were replaced two weeks ago.
"It was all damaged from vandals," Hagley said of the reason for the replacement. "They'd just destroyed the lighting, and it wasn't functional."
Hagley said the tunnel was cleaned a few months ago, in February. He said a volunteer group is expected to come by and clean it again soon, although sometimes city crews are responsible for cleaning it on an "as-needed" basis. In the meantime, the walls are covered with graffiti, and the ground is littered with trash and broken glass.
Janie Skaggs, a friend of Tierney's from the American Legion, said that if Tierney's girlfriend was afraid of using the tunnel even with Tierney present, she understands why they crossed the tracks.
"Kevin would've done anything to protect her," Skaggs said. "If she didn't feel safe, then he probably wouldn't have done it."
There was some disagreement about whether the lights were on in the tunnel on the night this all happened. Hagley said the lights are now working on a sensor that turns them on when it gets dark outside. One of the employees of the bar next to the tunnel, The Paddock Club, said the lights have been working now for a few weeks.
Police also said the lights were on that evening, even though they hadn't been in the past. A few people who were at the bar that night said they didn't think the lights were on at all.
"It is dark there at night, cause I've walked there many times in the evening, and it's never been lit. It's always dark when you come through it," Frank, who said he was at The Paddock Club that night, said.
Still, the city says it will have to discuss steps and strategies going forward.
"We need to look at what can be done to make it safer, to keep people from vandalizing and tearing it up," Hagley said.
Police said Tierney had been drinking at The Paddock Club that night, but his girlfriend was sober.
Police say Kevin Tierney, 55, was leaving the Paddock Club around 1 a.m. on West 5th Street and 8th Avenue with his girlfriend. According to police, he had been drinking, but his girlfriend was sober. The couple was heading to their car, which was parked on the north side of the tracks.
“His girlfriend crossed first,” Lt. John Williams of the Huntington Police Department said. “She acknowledged the train had its lights on and the horn was blasting.”
The train conductor told police he saw Tierney, slowed down from 30 miles per hour and honked his horn, but he could not avoid hitting him.
“[His girlfriend] continued across. She felt the victim was right behind her,” Williams said. “At that point, she turned around and she didn’t see him.”
Williams said that’s when his girlfriend panicked and ran back to the bar to get friends to come find him with her. Police said Tierney died from being hit.
Tierney’s friends were shocked Sunday and said they never expected this to happen.
Crossing train tracks is illegal, and his friends and police pointed out that there is an underground tunnel to cross under the tracks.
Police say Tierney’s girlfriend told them she was afraid to use the tunnel because it is usually dark.