ANDERSON — Corbin Stanley defied death once.
Corbin grew up hearing his mom retell the story of his complicated birth, how he wasn’t breathing for 13 minutes and how doctors had recorded a time of death before his time of birth.
Amanda Stanley said the story made Corbin feel almost invincible. She thinks it made her son more daring, more fearless.
“He would always say God was on his side,” Stanley said, tears rolling unchecked down her cheeks.
Corbin was unable to defy death a second time. He was hit and killed by a train April 23. He was 18 years old.
The afternoon Corbin died he was returning from a friend’s house and was likely listening to music on his AirPods when he made a fateful decision to walk on railroad tracks near the Main Street viaduct.
From nearby Anderson Preparatory Academy, a path cuts through the grass of an open field and up an embankment. The path is a visible indication Corbin wasn’t the only one familiar with the dangerous shortcut over the railroad near a rail yard.
By walking a few steps farther, people can use a sidewalk that runs below the viaduct next to heavily traveled Main Street.
But the viaduct isn’t exactly inviting for pedestrians.
Its walls are awash with graffiti, and the passageway is dark even on a sunny day. Rusty steel beams tower overhead, supporting the railroad tracks above.
The sidewalk is meant to be wide enough for two people to walk side-by-side, but debris, garbage and crumbling concrete narrow the path as it approaches the viaduct from the north. In some spots, pedestrians have scarcely a foot of space between themselves and cars passing on the street.
More than 30 cars passed under the viaduct within a few minutes on a recent day. Several motorists sounded their horns, emitting ear-splitting echoes in the viaduct.
Overhead that same day, a group of pre-teen boys had eschewed the viaduct and were taking the same shortcut along the railroad tracks that Corbin had taken April 23.
When told that crossing over the railroad tracks, instead of taking the sidewalk through the viaduct, is both dangerous and illegal, the boys shrugged without making eye contact.
“We don’t go that way,” one of the boys said, motioning to the sidewalk below as a car horn sounded. “Because they do that.”
Near the path the boys — and five weeks earlier, Corbin — took to the railroad, two badly faded signs, one on each side of the tracks, are nearly illegible. A close look reveals that the signs warn again trespassing.
Corbin would have passed those same signs April 23, according to Stanley, his mother. She has no doubt that her son knew he shouldn’t walk in the area.
But Corbin ignored the warnings, just as he failed to take the death of his second cousin five years ago as a warning to beware of trains.
In 2016, Preston Williams, 43, died after being struck by a train while walking on the tracks and listening to music in the 1900 block of Ohio Avenue.
Despite repeated warnings to stay away from the railroad, Stanley said, Corbin was drawn to the tracks near Jimbo’s, his grandfather’s bar only a few blocks from Corbin’s home and just one block from the stretch of railroad tracks where he was hit.
Corbin loved to hang around railroad tracks to shoot photos and enjoy the solitude, his mother said.
“He could go out there and listen to his music,” Stanley explained. “It was kind of a peaceful place for him to go by himself. He said he could think about things out there. I think he was infatuated with the trains.”
Authorities believe Corbin was listening to music while walking in the middle of the tracks on the afternoon of his death. Apparently, he did not see or hear the CSX train coming up behind him at 27 mph. He died an hour later at the hospital.
Madison County Coroner Dr. Troy Abbott ruled Corbin’s death accidental, citing blunt force trauma and loss of blood.
Police records indicate a call came in at 4:49 p.m. reporting that a pedestrian had been struck by a train at 32nd Street and Columbus Avenue — almost a mile from the actual incident location in the 3200 block of Main Street.
Until informed by a Herald Bulletin reporter, Stanley was not aware that the location of the train accident was incorrectly reported to dispatch, causing a delay in the arrival of emergency personnel.
Anderson Police Sgt. Brian Porter was responding to the accident when he heard other officers radio to dispatch that there wasn’t a train at 32nd and Columbus.
Porter wrote in an initial report that he was on Main Street and could see a train stopped over the viaduct. He drove up to an access road and began searching the area with officers Dillon Armstrong and Courtney Ginder, who eventually helped find Corbin.
He was taken to St. Vincent Hospital in Anderson with a faint pulse, according to Anderson Police Detective Eric Holtzleiter, who told the family that medics and medical professionals at the hospital had worked frantically to save Corbin.
‘MY MIRACLE BABY’
Placed in charge of investigating the accident, Holtzleiter helped find family members and worked with CSX officials to review video taken from the train’s engine.
According to Holtzleiter, the footage showed Corbin “simply walking westbound in the middle of the tracks.”
“He was not walking fast, just appeared to have a simple pace,” Holtzleiter wrote in the APD’s final report on the tragedy.
Holtzleiter said the video showed that the train’s crew repeatedly blew the horn and engaged the brakes.
“There was nothing that indicated Corbin had realized the train was approaching from behind him and (he) never reacted to the presence of the train until impact,” Holtzleiter wrote.
Stanley has returned to the railroad over the Main Street viaduct on multiple occasions to search for her son’s expensive AirPods. She’s troubled by signs — discarded styrofoam cups and other litter — that people have been walking on the tracks and hanging out in the area.
She wants new “no trespassing” signs posted near where her son was hit to help prevent another death on the tracks. More than a month after the accident, no changes have been made to the signs in the area where Corbin died.
Joseph Stanley, Corbin’s father, said the railroad should fence in or block off areas where it’s obvious that people are crossing the tracks.
“If they make people think they can’t get down that way they will find an alternate route,” he said. “It’s too easy for people to go down the railroad track and over the viaduct to McClure’s (gas station) or wherever they are going.”
Amanda Stanley said her son was the protector in the family, always looking out for others. The depth of his heart, she said, had no measure for those he loved. Corbin was her little champion and a big brother. Stanley has felt overwhelmed by his death.
“He thought he was invincible,” she said through tears. “He thought God had his back and he would never have to worry about anything because he made it through his birth.
“He came into this world with so many people ... in the waiting room holding hands and praying for him — it was crazy.”
“He was my miracle baby,” Stanley said.