April 4, 2014

Lily man hit, killed by train

Walking on tracks near Water Plant on Robinson Creek Road

By R. Scott Belzer
Staff Writer

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — Miki Strunk arrived at the train tracks on Robinson Creek Road Wednesday in a state of disbelief, panic and confusion. She ran towards a halted yellow and silver locomotive, a handful of local emergency workers, and signs that this tragic scene would not be easily forgotten.

The scene confirmed Strunk’s worst fears: her boyfriend of 13 years was dead.

Around 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, emergency service members throughout Laurel County received reports of a man fatally injured on the northbound tracks on Robinson Creek Road, approximately nine miles south of London, near the District 2 Laurel County Water Treatment Plant.

According to Deputy Gilbert Acciardo, public affairs officer with the Laurel County Sheriff’s Office, Leif Sandkulla, 35, of Lily, was walking on the railroad tracks when a CSX train observed him as it rounded a bend. The train sounded its whistle, but for reasons that remain unknown, Sandkulla remained on the tracks and was fatally struck by the high-velocity vehicle.

As emergency workers were conducting their investigation, Strunk came sprinting down the tracks still wearing her work uniform. The news of Sandkulla’s death was enough to make her physically ill and in need of support from local law enforcement.

There are still many unanswered questions.

Family members don’t know why Sandkulla was walking along the tracks along Robinson Creek Road, or why he was even walking at all.

According to Mickey Gabbard, who describes himself as Sandkulla’s father-in-law, Sandkulla works at Aisin Automotive Casting, on Ky. 552, in London.  On a typical workday, Sandkulla would wait for a ride home from Strunk, who works at the McDonald’s on Cumberland Gap Parkway in Corbin on their way to their home on Ky. 229.

 But this wasn’t a typical day and Gabbard just isn’t sure why.

“I don’t know why he was walking and didn’t wait for a ride home.  But she hadn’t heard anything from him, couldn’t get a hold of him, and then we got the call that he’d been hit,” he said.

Gabbard said it was rare that Sandkulla would walk to Strunk’s work in the first place, but stranger still that he’d walk on the railroad tracks.

“If he walks, he walks along the main roads.  Besides, trains are loud; how could you not hear it coming?”

As emergency workers cleared the scene, Gabbard received numerous phone calls from family and friends, wanting answers that he just didn’t have.

“We’re all a mess here,” he said of the family’s emotional state.

Laurel County Sheriff’s Deputy Robbie Grimes is currently conducting the death investigation, trying to at least decipher what Sandkulla’s intentions were.

“Of course, we’ll examine all directions during the course of our investigation,” said Acciardo.

Lt. Chuck Johnson, Senior Sgt. Greg Poynter, Deputy Daniel Grigsby, Det. Josh Scott, Bailiff Brandon Broughton and court security officer Patrick Harris all assisted at the scene.

They were joined by members of the Laurel County Coroner’s Office, Ambulance Inc. of Laurel County, the Lily Volunteer Fire Department and the London Laurel Rescue Squad.


Editor Carrie Dillard contributed to this story.