11-year-old girl hit, killed by train in Haines City

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Yazmin White never made it back to school after the holiday break.  Grief counselors greeted the sixth-grader’s classmates Thursday at the Davenport School of the Arts in Polk County.

“Making sure all of our students that have concerns, that their hearts are heavy and broken, we’re providing that support to them here at the school,” said Polk County Public Schools Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd.

Yazmin transferred to the magnet school at the start of year to study piano.  We’re told the 11-year-old had a natural gift for music and was dedicated to her classwork as well as playing.

“She made a lot of friends, she was very vibrant, and had a lot of energy,” Davenport School of the Arts principal Brian Keir said. 

But Wednesday evening was the last time Yazmin was seen alive.  

We’re told she was on her way home from a Haines City convenience store with some snacks to share with her 9-year-old brother, and took a shortcut over some train tracks.  She didn’t see the engine coming toward her, even though the engineer was blaring the horn and slamming on the brakes.

“He continuously blew the horn for about a quarter of a mile, all the while he’s trying to stop the train,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said.

Investigators say the 12-car passenger train was traveling just below the 70-mph speed limit.  That gave Yazmin less than 30 seconds to respond, but she was wearing earbuds and looking down at her phone as she walked onto the rails.

“…And never, ever heard the train until the absolute last seconds when she looked up and it was too late and she tried to jump off of the tracks,” said Judd.

A horrible tragedy that has so many in this community hurting.

“She is going to be greatly missed,” Byrd said.  “Greatly missed by the students and the faculty.”

Counselors will be available at the Davenport School of the Arts, at Yasmin’s younger brother’s school, and for her parents as long as they’re needed.

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office and Amtrak are both conducting investigations into the crash.