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Former Fargo hockey coach identified as train victim

Forum News Service

FARGO – Police have identified a 43-year-old former hockey coach as the man who was found dead Monday night near the railroad tracks in an industrial area of Fargo.

Chad Lewis Johnson, of Fargo, died of injuries related to being struck by a train, Fargo police said in a written statement released Tuesday morning.

Johnson is a former Fargo Force hockey team assistant coach who resigned in September as coach of the Lincoln Stars of the United States Hockey League.

Force General Manager Jon Kram said he was contacted Tuesday morning about Johnson's death.

"Our deepest sympathies, thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends," Kram said. "He was an extremely fun loving guy, one that his players fully enjoyed. He invested his time to his team, not only on the ice, but to develop as young men.

"Everyone is shocked. It's troubling. It's very sad news to get."

In a Lincoln Stars release in September, team President Jim Pflug said: "Chad has indicated to us that he’d like to return to Fargo so that he can be closer to his family, and address some health issues before they become more serious,” Pflug said. “Chad came in under difficult circumstances, and along with Jimmy McGroarty, helped restore the winning attitude that our organization is known for. He’s a great coach and friend, and we appreciate the sacrifices he’s made on our behalf.  We’re sorry to see him leave the Stars organization, but support his decision 100%.”

Johnson compiled a record of 116-71-12 during his three seasons with the Stars, including a USHL Western Conference regular season championship in 2011-12.

A BNSF Railway train crew reported seeing a body near the railroad tracks in the 4200 block of Main Avenue around 5:30 p.m.

Johnson’s vehicle was found nearby.

“This is a very isolated area, even though it is in the middle of our community,” Fargo Police Lt. Joel Vettel said. “The reason why the individual was back here is something we are trying to establish.”

Vettel said the train crew that reported the incident was not believed to be on the same train that struck the man.

Vettel said the accident likely happened within “hours” of when the crew spotted the body.

He said BNSF crews were assisting officers in the investigation and video of the railroad tracks may be available.

“If one (of the cameras) was able to catch this issue, certainly we’ll be looking at that,” Vettel said.

A spokesman for BNSF said in an emailed statement that the man wasn't killed “anywhere near a designated crossing.

“Being on or near rail-road tracks in any place other than a designated crossing is extremely dangerous and illegal. BNSF supports safety education efforts in communities throughout the state to help people of all ages understand that they need to stay away from railroad tracks to stay safe.”

According to Forum archives, the last fatal pedestrian accident involving a train in this area was in October 2012 when 69-year-old Eugene Katz was struck while crossing the train tracks in Casselton.