One photo shows Fredzania Thompson posing confidently in her high heels, smiling as she stood between two train tracks. In another, the 19-year-old aspiring model is seen sitting in the middle of the adjacent tracks with one leg outstretched and a serious, intense gaze into the camera.
As the photos were being taken in Navasota, Tex., Thompson noticed a train approaching and turned to avert it. In the process, she walked straight into a train approaching from the other direction.
Thompson died en route to the hospital shortly after being struck last Friday. Her photographer was not harmed.
According to Union Pacific spokesman Jeff De Graff, the crew of the train that hit Thompson had seen her and the photographer on the tracks, blew a horn to alert them and began making an emergency stop, the Navasota Examiner reported.
Thompson died just three days before her 20th birthday and nine days after learning she was pregnant, her fiance, Earl Chatman, told local television station KAGS. Her funeral is Saturday.
“It’s really tough right now because we all needed her in our lives,” Chatman said. “She made everybody’s day every time you saw her with that beautiful smile.”
Last year, 265 people were killed by trains and 798 people were injured, according to statistics from Operation Lifesaver, a railroad safety advocacy group.
The photos being taken of Thompson were supposed to be the beginning of her modeling portfolio, the Eagle reported.
In response to her death, a photographer from Colorado wrote on a blog: “Tragedies like this one bring up a moral dilemma for working professionals: does a professional photographer have a responsibility to counsel against and/or refuse their clients portrait sessions in places of known danger? One has to wonder when the cost of taking portraits on railroad tracks will finally become too high.”
After the incident, Union Pacific’s spokesman DeGraff urged people in the community to stay away from train tracks, which are “never an appropriate location for any other activity than running trains,” the Examiner reported.
“If you think you are quick enough to get out of the way of a moving train than you are probably going to guess wrong,” said De Graff. “We reach out to numerous communities, including their photographing community, to explain how dangerous it is to try to take pictures on the railroad tracks and things like that.”
Although Thompson was a skilled volleyball player with multiple athletic scholarships, what she loved most since she was a child was modeling, her mother said. She had planned to attend Blinn College in Bryan, Tex., but was hoping to focus on her pursuing her modeling career.
“She definitely had the talent, and the smile for it,” Chatman said.
Her mother, Hakamie Stevenson, said “Zanie,” as her daughter was nicknamed, was a role model for her five younger brothers and sisters. She was a hair and makeup whiz and a caring daughter, she told the Eagle.
On Monday, what would have been Thompson’s birthday, the Navasota community gathered at the site of the accident, leaving balloons, candles and flowers in her memory.