Two teenage girls walking on railroad tracks near their school were struck and killed by an Amtrak train in Delaware County yesterday morning.
Authorities did not identify the girls, but classmates at Interboro Senior High School said they were Gina Gentile and Vanessa Dorwart, sophomores from Glenolden.
Gentile, whose family said she was one of six siblings, was 16. Dorwart would have turned 16 next week, according to a relative’s Facebook page.
Superintendent Nancy Hacker said the girls were supposed to be in class at the time of the 10:30 incident. A third girl was with them when they died, and that girl reported to school after the collision and spoke with counselors and teachers, Hacker said.
Several Interboro students said in interviews yesterday that the girls had been upset about the death last month of Gentile’s boyfriend, fellow student William Bradley V, 17. He was hit and killed by a car while riding his bicycle.
Norwood Police Chief Mark Del Vecchio confirmed that investigators were checking reports that the girls might have killed themselves. Police also were talking to an eyewitness, he said.
Ashley Shemeluk, 14, a friend of Gentile’s, said Gentile had dated Bradley for a year, and was terribly grieved by his death.
“I asked if she was going to do anything stupid, and she said no,” Shemeluk said. “She said she was fine and doing better.”
Donna Giordano, Gentile’s aunt, said last night that the family was devastated.
Her niece, she said, “was awesome,” one of six siblings between 6 and 22, a girl who was always helping her mom, Jacqueline, and even assisted her older sister with a new baby.
“We will miss her,” Giordano said sadly.
Rosalia Giordano, Gentile’s grandmother, said the girl had been saddened by Bradley’s death; he was on his way to see her when he was killed. On Wednesday night, several teens had gathered to share stories and poems about him, she said. And now Gentile is gone, too.
“It’s horrible,” her grandmother said. “She was happy this morning when she left.”
Little could be learned about Dorwart’s background last night; she was said to have been living with her father. Since Bradley’s death, Dorwart had displayed a roller-coaster of emotions on her Facebook page.
On Tuesday, the last day she posted on Facebook, she wrote: “Ijus wanna be happy again. Not the fake smile my real one.”
Dorwart often wrote about how she missed Bradley. “Icant believe its been a month already,” she wrote last Friday. “I love you and miss you so much.” She followed those words with a heart symbol, and “RestEasyBillBradley,” and these characters – endnu
The girls died on a damp, cold morning amid the snow and whipping wind of a descending winter storm. They were struck near the Norwood SEPTA station by a southbound, high-speed Acela train running between Boston and Washington, an Amtrak representative said. The Acela can travel up to 110 m.p.h. through that area, though there was no sign the train was going that fast when the girls were hit.
Later in the day, Internet memorials bloomed like flowers on social-networking sites.
On Facebook, a boy named Dan Simpson wrote, “RIP, Bill, Gina and Vanessa. Too young, too soon. Bill, cuz, take care of these girls and keep watching over us.”
Miranda Kissling wrote, “Rest easy baby girls. You will be missed.”
The Norwood station, little more than a roofed enclosure to provide shelter from the weather, sits at the bottom of what is basically a large gully on the edge of a residential community. Passengers walk down steps to reach the trains.
The area is defined by four tracks, two running north and two south, separated by a chain-link fence. The high school is less than two blocks away.
Numerous signs warned people not to cross the tracks. Students said they know it’s dangerous to do so, but do it anyway.
A man was killed in the same part of the tracks in October.
The Medical Examiner’s Office said autopsies on the girls would be finished today.
The girls’ fellow students described them as well-known and well-liked – even loved.
Junior Shelby Chorney, 17, described the school as turning suddenly somber as word spread. One girl got a text message that simply said, “It was Gina.”
Samantha Brown, 15, a sophomore, said, “The hallways were so quiet. You heard a lot of people crying.”
She said of Gentile and Dorwart, “They were in school, and they left and went [to the tracks]. There was definitely a reason.”
But Jourdan Brady said her friend Dorwart sounded fine when they spoke Wednesday night. She was her usual self – someone who liked to hang out and who stuck up for her friends.
“She was the one who you could get good advice from,” Brady said.
Brady, 14, said she didn’t believe the girls had killed themselves, “because Vanessa wasn’t depressed.”
Nicollette Seifert, 15, said her friend Gentile was social, friendly, and easy to get along with. There was no sign she was depressed.
After the crash, a dozen investigators converged on the scene, combing the southbound tracks. Families of the victims gathered at the Norwood police station.
Amtrak stopped traffic on the four tracks at 10:38 a.m. By 11:26, one track had reopened, allowing some trains to move through slowly. Service on SEPTA’s R2 Regional Rail line south of 30th Street Station was temporarily suspended.
Bruce Wright, a ticket agent at the Norwood station, said he had stepped outside for a cigarette, and “I saw two girls on the southbound side,” one talking on a cell phone.
He did not see the impact. But minutes after he returned to his booth, emergency workers began to swarm the area.
Several kids who knew the girls said they had been rocked by Bradley’s death. The Prospect Park youth was hit and killed by a car Jan. 19, according to the Daily Times newspaper and information posted on the Find a Grave Web site.
Bradley, an 11th grader, had celebrated his 17th birthday Dec. 5, and was looking forward to getting his driver’s license. He was pedaling across South Avenue at Lynwood Circle when an eastbound car struck him on West South Avenue at 12:27 p.m.
He died shortly afterward at Crozer-Chester Medical Center.
Yesterday afternoon, at about 3:30, a group of teens stood on a bridge that overlooks the tracks, affording a view of the place where the girls died.
They stood together, sharing memories of the girls, as the snow fell around them.
By Jeff Gammage, Sam Wood, and Mari A. Schaefer
Inquirer Staff Writers