Family, friends mourn loss of Volusia high school student struck, killed by train

Teen sitting on tracks tried to get out of way of train, police say

Robert Harris.
Robert Harris.

ORMOND BEACH, Fla. – A Volusia County high school student was struck and killed Sunday night by a train in Ormond Beach, police said.

Officials said Robert M. Harris, 18, who was a junior at Seabreeze High School in Daytona Beach, died in the crash, which happened around 7:40 p.m. as the train crossed the trestle over the Tomoka River in the area of U.S. 1 and Airport Road.

Ormond Beach police said Harris finished his shift at River Grille Restaurant and was waiting for his friends to pick him up when he was sitting on the tracks as the southbound train approached.\

Police said the conductor spotted the teen on the tracks and applied the brakes, but the train couldn't stop in time. Police said Harris got up to run away but fell twice and was fatally struck.

"The train came to an abrupt stop," a 911 caller said. "I heard a boom, and then I heard the screeching of the wheels."

The caller later said that a person had been struck.

"There was a guy -- somebody on the trestle," the caller said. "The train went through there and hit somebody."

Police said the conductor was not at fault in the crash. Florida East Coast Railway operates the train track.

The family was grieving on Monday and told News 6 that their son was very well liked.

"I just don't know how to wrap my mind around the taking of a beautiful 18-year-old boy," said his mother, Patricia Best. "He was a bright, old soul. He had a great sense of humor and he was bright. Very, very bright. Had a big future."

Students and staff at Seabreeze High School also mourned the loss of their friend.

"Robert was like a funny kid. He was always cool to be around with. If you needed help with something, he would help you out with it. He was just a good kid," said Robert Bell.

Devin Avarsa told News 6 that Robert "...was a funny kid. Smart kid. An intelligent kid, really."

The school said it has crisis counselors on hand and released a statement that said: "The entire Seabreeze High community is deeply saddened by this loss."

"He was my heart and my soul," said Best.

Stay with News 6 and for updates on this developing story.

About the Authors:

Loren Korn is a native Texan who joined the News 6 team as a reporter in May 2014. She was born and raised in Houston and graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Journalism.

Dawn is a Digital Content Editor who has been with Graham Media Group since April 2013. She graduated from Texas State University with a degree in electronic media.