Ramstein-based staff sergeant killed by train
By JENNIFER H. SVAN AND MARCUS KLÖCKNER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 16, 2012
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — An Air Force staff sergeant assigned to Ramstein Air Base died Monday after he was struck by a train on his bicycle at an unguarded railroad crossing several kilometers west of the base, German police and base officials said.
Joseph A. Weems, 24, a member of the 86th Maintenance Squadron, died in a Kaiserslautern hospital following Monday’s train accident, 86th Airlift Wing officials said in a news release Wednesday.
About 4 p.m. on Monday, Weems was riding on a bike path that runs parallel to the tracks. He turned to cross the tracks at an unguarded crossing and was struck by a train approaching him from behind, said Stefan Heina, a spokesman from Germany’s federal police agency in Kaiserslautern. He was wearing headphones at the time, Heina said.
The train, which was traveling toward the village of Steinwenden, is supposed to sound an early warning when approaching an unguarded crossing, Heina said. He did not know whether the train had done so.
U.S. military police were also called to the scene, Heina said.
A spokeswoman with the 86th Airlift Wing said Wednesday that base officials could not confirm the sequence of events surrounding Weems’ death as the incident is still under investigation.
“The 86th Airlift Wing lost a member of our Air Force family and we are deeply saddened,” Col. Stephen P. Lambert, 86th Airlift Wing vice commander, said in a statement. “Staff Sgt. Weems will be missed by his unit and all who had the opportunity to serve with him. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.”
Weems was from Grand Rapids, Mich. Plans for a memorial service for him at Ramstein are pending, base officials said Wednesday.