The death of 11-year-old Joey Kramer — less than two weeks short of his 12th birthday, which would have come March 10 — has been ruled an accident.
Joey's last minutes of life are painted dramatically, chillingly and ironically in the Medical Examiner's report of his death, released Tuesday morning.
The report is a picture of a train crew and multiple other witnesses watching helplessly as a young boy entered the 68th Street crossing, "his head down and hood up over his head."
- Wauwatosa Patch blogger Mike Collins writes a pointed piece about his safety while running with earbuds in.
The massive train was traveling at 35 mph, carrying 4,000 tons of cargo. There would be no question of stopping it — there was hardly time to even begin to slow it down, Canadian Pacific personnel said.
The train operators, an engineer and conductor, blew the train's horn several times but, they told investigators, they never saw Joey look up.
In moments, they were so close they could see that Joey was wearing earbuds under his hood.
Witnesses said that Joey had almost cleared the tracks on the north side of the crossing when he was struck.
The facts of the matter
The details of such investigative reports are meticulous, exacting. Joey's body was thrown 94 feet from the point of impact. His set of earbuds was found 20 feet away. The train was finally brought to a stop a quarter of a mile east of the crossing.
The accident has been reported to have happened at 7:24 a.m. At 7:25, the report notes, 911 was activated. A paramedic unit was on the scene at 7:29 and, "In less than 10 minutes, the decedent was enroute to Children's Hospital," it says.
In the initial 911 call, released Tuesday afternoon by Wauwatosa police, a man who is clearly upset but maintaining control tells the dispatcher, "We need an amublance at 68th and State immediately, a young kid has just been hit by a train. He's still breathing.
"There's a gash in his head and the train has stopped. North side of the tracks, please!"
"Thank you, sir, we're on our way."
Despite the rapid response, the medical examiner's report notes, once Joey reached the emergency room at Children's, he "was in asystole the entire code" — a state of no cardiac activity. Nevertheless, doctors worked to revive him.
Joey was declared dead at 7:55. "Multiple blunt force injuries" were the offical cause of death.
Family had just moved a block away from crossing
Those are the cold facts of the matter, maybe more than some people wish to know, although there is much more that no one needs to know.
But the report is not asceptic — it also tells us how Joey came to be at that corner, at that time.
The Longfellow School directory, printed last fall, lists Joey's home with his mother, Sara Kramer, in the 2400 block of 64th Street.
But police told medical investigators that Sara Kramer had just about a month earlier moved to a new home just a block south of the railroad crossing. The report notes that Joey's "normal routine is to walk to school in the morning."
Sara Kramer told investigators that Joey had no health problems except asthma. But to be certain, his family physician was contacted, too. Joey, he said, had no hearing or vision problems.
She told a WISN TV reporter that she wasn't ready to speak publicly about the accident, but thanked people for their kind wishes via Facebook.
There was apparently nothing about Joey that would have prevented him from hearing or seeing an approaching train, except a hood, a pair of earbuds and intense love of music.
Counselors provided grief support at Longfellow, while the train operators have been temporarily relieved of their duties and also provided "critical incident services," according to a Canadian Pacific spokesman.
Crossing bars covering sidewalks are an option for that rail crossing, say rail officials, according to a report from WISN TV.