PENINSULA, OH (WOIO) - A woman hit and killed Sunday by a train on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad was identified Monday as 38-year-old Heidi Howard. The incident happened just north of the Peninsula station around 3:30 p.m.
A friend of Howard's confirmed Howard saw what appeared to be a special needs child being rough-handled by his father and that's why she crossed the tracks.
Melissa Prochaska says Howard was the type of person who stood up for what she thought was right. She, especially, had a soft spot in her heart for kids with special needs.
So, when the two of them witnessed what they thought was a child, who appeared to have special needs, being handled roughly, Howard said she needed to have a word with the child's parents.
The two had just finished lunch at the Winking Lizard restaurant in Peninsula.
"The child threw himself down in the middle of the parking lot, and the father ended up coming over and grabbing the child by the back of the head, and that upset her and me," described Prochaska. "She looked at me, and she said, 'I should go say something.'"
And that's what Prochaska says Howard did, crossing the tracks toward Century Cycle, where they saw the boy and the people who appeared to be his parents go.
Prochaska isn't sure what transpired between Howard and the man who appeared to get rough with the child. She only saw what came next.
"She headed back over, and she was upset, but she was like, proud, in a sense, that she had done what she does, which is she stood up for something that was right," added Prochaska.
Investigators say it appears Howard didn't notice the train that was carrying close to 300 sightseers coming into the station until the last minute.
Prochaska confirms Howard did wear a hearing aid.
The train was traveling at a speed of about 15 miles per hour, according to park rangers.
Investigators say it is possible that Howard did not hear the train's horn blowing.
Prochaska says she's not sure why her dear friend walked into the path of the train. She says she's still in shock.
"The lights were going as well as the train's horn was blowing, there was general public in the area, visitors who were calling to the woman to stop. Unfortunately, she was struck and she died at the scene," said Mary Pat Doorley with the National Park Service.