WEST JORDAN, Utah (ABC 4 News) – It’s a parent’s nightmare. A 15-year-old girl went to grab ice cream and never returned home.
Shariah Casper died Wednesday when she stepped in the path of a westbound TRAX train. After evaluation, there are several indicators that it might not have been her fault.
Shariah’s father, Ken Casper, told ABC 4 News on the phone Friday that his first priority right now is to give Shariah a proper farewell. After he lays his daughter to rest, he is going to put all of his effort into urging UTA to upgrade safety standards at the TRAX crossing where his daughter took her last breath.
It was first thought that 15-year-old Shariah Casper tried to beat the TRAX train at 3200 West and 8600 South in West Jordan. But ABC 4 now knows that Shariah had stopped for one train, only to be hit by another.
“What's clear though is, for whatever reason, she didn't see the train,” said UTA spokesman Gerry Carpenter.
The TRAX line from 5600 West to Midvale Yard is deemed a quiet zone. That means trains do not have to sound a horn at intersections. Although safety standards at this crossing are higher for that reason, it seems there are still concerns if it’s good enough. Shariah was focused on a train headed eastbound. When that trained passed by, it was likely she thought the coast was clear and stepped in front a 16-foot-sound wall that keeps it quiet for neighbors. That’s when it’s believed Shariah was blindsided by a westbound train.
“Visibility is a concern at this one with a very tall sound wall there,” said Carpenter.
Shariah’s step-sister, 16-year-old Darian Nelson, was at a makeshift memorial at the accident scene. She, a family friend and her daughter were there to pay their respects to Shariah and express concern.
“I think that there needs to be some more warning signs and maybe another gate for the pedestrians who are going the opposite direction,” said Casper family friend, Julie Martinez.
“I think they should do that because if they don't there's just going to be more accidents,” said Nelson.
ABC 4 drove to find out if there were any more crossings with low visibility. There are two more, one at 2700 West and another at 2200 West. We asked Carpenter if UTA is evaluating these.
“We're going to be looking at all of those as we go through this safety evaluation process,” said Carpenter.
UTA is considering several safety improvements like extra signage and improving visibility. Carpenter says UTA does not take this situation lightly.
“We're conducting a top to bottom evaluation and until that's complete, we won't be satisfied,” said Carpenter.
These lines were completed this year and are operating only as test runs. These operations have been suspended for safety evaluations. When test runs resume June 20, there will be safety personnel manning these crossings. The line is slated to open to the public August 7. UTA expects the line to carry 9,000 passengers upon opening and 19,000 per day by 2030.
Ken Casper says services for Shariah are scheduled for Monday, June 13, at the Memorial Estates in Murray at 5850 South 900 East beginning at 11 a.m.
If you’d like to make a donation in Shariah’s name you can do so at any University Credit Union and donate to the “Ken Casper” fund.