GRAFTON — A Grafton man who walked outside to look for his girlfriend and ended up being struck by a train died Tuesday night from his injuries, police said.
Police say Joel Uebbing, 26, died shortly after 11 p.m. Tuesday at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland, where he was flown after the accident. He had sustained severe head and abdominal injuries, police said.
Uebbing was walking east along Main Street near the Spitzer car dealership — close to the home he shared with his girlfriend — at 8:20 p.m. when two trains passed through the area. Police said Uebbing walked past the warning gates, lights and signals and stood near the tracks.
Brenda Uebbing, Joel’s mother, said her son was looking from his longtime girlfriend after thinking her casual bike ride was taking too long.
The last two cars of the southbound train were just about to pass through the crossing when witnesses told police they saw Uebbing walk into the last car. He was struck by a ladder attached to the slow-moving freight train and was thrown several feet away from the tracks, police said.
The horrific accident was caught on the surveillance video of a nearby bar, which police reviewed. That video lead them to believe Uebbing was just trying to walk around the train, but misjudged the situation as he closed in on the train, police Chief Lonnie Carroll said.
“I can’t tell you why he turned when he did or what kind of state of mind he was in at the time of the accident,” he said. “It happened at a train crossing in the middle of town so we have a lot of witnesses and we know he was traveling alone."
Police believe alcohol or drugs may have played a role in the accident.
Brenda Uebbing said her son was basically a good kid who was happy his life was finally moving in the direction he wanted. After months of struggling to find a decent job, he was just hired as an electrician for a local company.
“He had some tough times, but he was getting his life together,” she said. “He was kind of nutty, but we loved him and are going to miss him."
Uebbing attended Midview Schools in the late 1990s and learned his trade at the Lorain County Joint Vocational School. He chose electrical work because he loved to be outside and work with his hands and thought the skill could give him the opportunity to do both, his mother said.
“He was not the kind of guy who could be happy working inside an office all day,” Brenda said. “He loved to hunt and fish and just enjoyed nature."
Uebbing leaves behind two younger sisters, a 7-year-old daughter in West Virginia and a host of local family and friends.
This summer, two others also have been killed in train accidents. Amanda White, 18, of New London, died when her car was hit by a train and dragged nearly a half-mile, and Christopher Campbell, 17, of Vermilion, died while he tried to run across a track in front of an approaching train while walking with friends.
Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.