PA: Danville Train Diver Left Hospital 4 Days Before Suicide

July 22--DANVILLE -- The young man who killed himself by diving under an Iron Heritage Festival passenger train underwent treatment in mental health facilities as recently as four days before his death, according to Montour County Coroner Scott E. Lynn.

Lynn identified the victim of Saturday's 10:08 a.m. fatality as Chad Yerby, 21, whose last known address was Virginia Beach, Va.

Yerby was involved in an incident July 9 in Luzerne County that led to him being admitted to a mental health facility. He was initially taken to Hazleton Hospital and then transferred to Bloomsburg Hospital, Lynn said. The coroner said Yerby was in Bloomsburg Hospital from July 9 through July 15.

"He had been meandering around the area for the last week or so," Lynn said.

Danville police had several encounters with Yerby but nothing involving unusual behavior or making any trouble, Lynn added.

Lynn was able to notify Yerby's father late Monday morning and his mother early Monday afternoon. His mother lives in West Point, Va., and his father is a resident of Virginia Beach, Lynn said.

The last interaction the parents had with their son was two months ago.

"His mother related he had depression in the past through his high school years," Lynn said.

Two months ago, he wasn't suicidal, the mother told Lynn.

The parents knew he was in North Carolina two months ago when a North Carolina woman found his cell phone and hat, Lynn said.

"We're not sure why he was in this area. He had no family in the area, and the family hadn't traveled to anything here," Lynn said.

Lynn said he was told Yerby had a recent encounter with law enforcement in Virginia Beach involving possession of marijuana.

"His mother related she received a bill last week from Lehigh Valley Health Network Hospital, in the Hazleton area, in reference to a bill about him," Lynn said. "That was the last she had any idea of where he may or may not be."

Lynn said Yerby's parents heard he may have been headed to Texas or Colorado "because he always talked about going there. They had no idea what brought him to this area."

A plastic drawstring bag, similar to one a patient receives upon discharge from a hospital, was found behind Alpine Animal Clinic along with a hat and a backpack following Yerby's death on the tracks behind the animal hospital at Routes 11 and 54. Lynn said no note was found in his belongings. There was an unfilled prescription but no indication as to why Yerby committed suicide, he said.

The coroner said he didn't know where Yerby stayed other than on the streets.

Asleep on sidewalk

Red Swank, of Danville, said people setting up stands for the festival told him they saw Yerby lying on the sidewalk by the parking lot behind the Ferry Street parking lot. He was seen there about 6 a.m. Saturday and was apparently sleeping, Swank said.

Danville Police Chief Eric Gill said he was called Friday morning about Yerby, whom he found behind Burger King. "He was very polite and cordial and said he was looking to move on down South somewhere," Gill said.

"He said he was going to move onto the next town when he was able," Gill said.

The coroner had no information on the victim's educational or occupational background. "His parents are still trying to absorb all of this at this point. I will have further discussions with them," he said.

Lynn said there was no indication of any substances related to the death. No substances were found on the victim, he said.

A Danville woman told police she saw Yerby dive under the baggage car of the train on its first excursion ride from Danville Middle School to Bloomsburg.

Gary Shields, president of North Shore Railroad, which provided locomotives for the train rides, would not comment on why the ride continued to Bloomsburg.

"We don't comment on that until the accident investigation is done. It is our policy not to comment on an accident investigation," he said.

Danville people said the train crew didn't know the man had thrown himself under the train. Someone in the caboose noticed something and radioed to a train official where the train started out, Danville Cpl. Jon Swank said. By that time, an eyewitness to the incident had called Montour County's 911 Center.

Iron Heritage Festival store manager Sylvia Knorr said she notified a North Shore official of the incident at 10:28 a.m. Saturday. She said he was going to alert the crew in the engine.

The train returned to Danville and stopped near Ferry Street. The cross arms were down on Mill Street, which had been closed to traffic that day.

The train stopped there because if it would have stopped any closer, it would have tripped the signals on Route 54, she said.

Knorr understood the 188 passengers on the train were told at that time there had been a fatality and that was why they were stopping there.

Ticket refunds given

So far, the Iron Heritage Festival Committee has refunded about 244 train tickets with about 60 more expected to be refunded. The tickets cost $12 each with the festival getting a portion of the ticket sales from North Shore and Penn Valley Railroad, which provided the passenger cars. Roundtrip rides at 12:30 to Northumberland and 2:30 p.m. to Bloomsburg were canceled.

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