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FOUR OAKS, N.C. — A woman preparing a send-off for a relative entering the military was killed when she crossed a railroad track on a path used by locals between houses in a small North Carolina town, authorities said.

Before she was killed Saturday afternoon, the woman had been helping to tie balloons for the party at a house in Four Oaks about 30 miles southeast of Raleigh, Police Chief Stephen Anderson said.

“Witnesses said they heard the train blowing the horn,” Anderson said. “She must not have heard it and walked in front of the train.”

A young man related to the woman was going into the military, so the family was having a party for him, Four Oaks Mayor Linwood Parker said. He said the woman was walking between houses along a path that crossed the railroad but wasn’t considered a marked crossing.

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“The houses, some of them were built prior to automobiles, and they had a path across the track,” he said.

A level of comfort and familiarity around the tracks appears to predate the founding of the town, which now has about 2,000 people. The town’s website says it developed around the tracks and owes its name to the railroad.

None of the crew or 217 passengers were injured, Amtrak said.

Associated Press