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Stay alert

Published July 30. 2014 04:00PM

Pennsylvania is known for its natural outdoor beauty but with that comes a caution to those unfamiliar with the territory.

We know too well how easy it is for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts to fall victim while trying to navigate the rugged terrain. Glen Onoko, where we've seen a number of rescues and at least one snake bite victim already this year, is a good example.

In the past 10 days, the Allentown area experienced a pair of deadly outdoor tragedies that were likely preventable had better judgment been used.

Last week, a 24-year-old man drowned in a pond near the South Mountain Reservoir.

According to witnesses, the man jumped off the makeshift rope swing into the water. Police say he resurfaced, but was having trouble swimming and went under again. A water rescue unit later recovered the man's body. Despite warnings, we've seen this kind of dangerous activity by young people in our region during the dogs days of summer.

Poor judgment was a major factor in another Lehigh County tragedy a day earlier. Two young men working for an Emmaus landscaping business were killed after being struck by a Norfolk Southern freight train.

Co-workers say the two men had just ended their shifts and were walking from their job site near the Emmaus border to the bus that would take them home to Allentown. In order to save about 15 minutes walking time and avoid crossing a narrow bridge over the railroad, they decided to take the "safer" shortcut by walking on the tracks.

That's when they were hit by the 4,800-ton freight train. The county coroner couldn't determine if the men were distracted or why they didn't hear or see the train.

There are some tragic cases involving trains and humans where the answers are more obvious. Last April, a California woman was struck and killed by a freight train as she jogged along busy tracks near a popular hiking trail. As the train approached she obviously could not hear the blaring horn because she was wearing headphones that fully covered her ears.

In many cases such as this one, the dangerous confrontations between man and machine - or against our natural surroundings - can be avoided by simply being staying alert and applying some good common sense.

By Jim Zbick

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