AURORA, Colo. – The family of a deaf refugee from Myanmar who was killed Feb. 19 by an RTD train during testing on the new R Line says it is heartbroken over his death, which his family says may have been preventable.
Saw Eh, 35, died after he was hit by the train while it was being tested earlier this month. RTD and Aurora Police Department spokespeople have both said Eh walked passed crossing gates and onto the tracks, where he was struck.
But his family says that since he can’t hear or read English, that he did not heed the flashing lights at the crossing gate.
Eh’s mother, Kyin Shwe, spoke to Denver7 Tuesday. She and her family came to Denver as refugees from Myanmar six years ago. Myanmar has sent more than 5,000 refugees to Colorado since 1997, and the country has sent the third-most refugees to the state, compared to other countries, since 1980.
Shwe says her family is suffering greatly after her son’s death.
“I couldn’t even explain the suffering that I’m going through right now,” she said through an interpreter.
She had gone to church that day, and came back to find the rest of her family distraught.
“When I came back from church, I saw a lot of police were in that location,” Shwe told Denver7. “When I came home, his father told me, ‘Your son’s left for a long, long time.’”
She says police confirmed her worst fears.
“I cried a lot,” Shwe said. “They told me, ‘That train accident killed your son.’”
She said that Eh was very helpful around the house and at his church despite his disability.
“He was very honest and very obedient,” Shwe said of her son.
His family says Eh crossed the same train tracks every day at 30th Avenue and Peoria Street, but likely thought there wasn’t a train coming despite what RTD says were warnings.
“Him being deaf, he would assume there was no train coming because before the lights, the arms were flashing and there was no train coming,” said Eh’s brother-in-law, Antonio Turner. “He was assuming that there was no train coming when the lights were going – it’d be just like normal.”
After he was struck by the train, Eh was pronounced dead at University of Colorado Hospital. The Adams County Coroner’s Office says his manner and cause of death is still pending.
The RTD R Line opened days after the accident.