The teenage boy hit and killed by a train in rural Montgomery County, Maryland, Monday afternoon had been posing for photos on the tracks, his devastated parents told News4 in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday.
"It was too late before they realized the train was coming," Christine DeReggi, the mother of 16-year-old John Martin DeReggi said.
DeReggi died after he stepped onto train tracks near the Boyds MARC train station late Monday afternoon and was hit by an Amtrak train, Montgomery County police said. First-responders arrived on the scene at about 4:45 p.m. and the teen was pronounced dead.
The Clarksburg High School student had been walking along the tracks with his girlfriend and her sister, John DeReggi Sr. and the teen's mother said. The younger DeReggi and his girlfriend were being photographed by his girlfriend's sister, they said.
DeReggi, known as John John, was remembered by family and friends and upbeat and funny.
"I just want him to be remembered as the great kid that he was, and how he was such a laugh," sister Arielle DeReggi said.
"Everyone loved him. He was just an amazing person," friend Elizabeth Loy said. "He was so sweet, so bubbly, so goofy."
Students at Clarksburg High memorialized their classmate on Tuesday by wearing blue, the school color.
Modern trains are surprisingly quiet, Federal Railroad Administration data shows. A rail car traveling at 50 mph is about as loud as a car traveling at 70 mph or a person shouting, according to an FRA noise chart.
Trees surrounding railroad tracks can muffle the sound, a director of a school for future train engineers told Popular Mechanics last year.
Union Pacific launched a social media campaign earlier this year urging teenagers against taking photographs on train tracks. "#TracksAreForTrains, not your senior photos," was its message.
According to the FRA, 27 people trespassing on railroad tracks in Maryland have been killed since the start of 2012. Most of these victims -- 13 people -- were walking on the tracks when they were hit, the data shows.
Since Jan. 1, 2014, 70 people have been injured or killed on or near train tracks in D.C., Maryland and Virginia. The incident Monday is the 71st such event, according to News4's I-Team.