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Hardin community advocating for new law following train death of 22-month-old

Harper Hattock.jpg
Posted at 9:36 PM, May 31, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-01 15:33:11-04

HARDIN, Mo. — Families in a Hardin, Missouri, neighborhood were used to the sound of trains two weeks ago.

"Oh, we live by the trains — that's fine," said Jodi Brown, a neighbor. "We hear horns everyday, not a big deal."

Now, it's a painful reminder of 22-month-old Harper Wren Paige Hattock. Harper died in a train accident near the neighborhood on May 13.

"It triggers you into the panic mode of a parent — where's my baby?" Brown said. "Is my baby right next to me?

Harper, who's gained the support of thousands of people, was going after her puppy on the morning of May 13.

The engineer of the train could not stop in time.

"As a mom, that day, it has made me want to hold my son closer," Brown said.

Off Elm Street in Hardin, you can't avoid crossing these train tracks.

For families like Harper's, it's less than 50 yards away from their front door. They want a new law that would put a mile and a half of fencing down the road.

That brings Harper's Law into the conversation.

On Wednesday night, many people with kids and grand kids showed up to the Hardin City Hall.

They never want this to happen again — the community is pushing for a local or even state law giving communities leverage to put safety barriers along rail lines.

"We just gotta be patient. We have to be loud," said Jared Shepard, who is helping form a Harper's Law committee.

Families were lined out of city hall's doors. Many of them showed up so this can be a reality.

"I am here today to advocate for Harper Wren," Brown said.

On Wednesday night, the work officially started for Harper.

"If we have to go one town at a time, that's what we do," Shepard said.

The family had a statement read during Wednesady's meeting that said this was no one's fault, but they want peace of mind.

They thanked the conductor of the train for trying their hardest to stop.

BNSF Railway owns the tracks and the land where the fencing may go.

Ray County Sheriff Scott Childers' neighbors might see the company out doing a feasibility study.

BNSF sent KSHB 41 the following statement:

"This tragic incident has been classified as an accident by authorities and we are cooperating with them as the investigation continues," BSNF said in the statement. "With regard to a fence, we work with local authorities on areas of risk and work towards solutions to address those risks together."

Missouri Rep. Peggy McGaugh told KSHB 41 this isn't impossible and she's happy to work with her colleagues in the statehouse to make it happen.

The City of Hardin has asked BNSF to attend their meeting on June 21 to explain what can or can't be done.