CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A Charlotte man told his girlfriend, "I love you," before pushing her to safety off an Iredell County bridge just as a train struck and killed him early Friday, his parents said Sunday.
Christopher Kaiser and his girlfriend were on a trip with others to see a "ghost train" that has long been the subject of folklore in the area. They were walking along a trestle when they were surprised by a real train, authorities said. The two tried to run but weren't able to get away.
The accident happened off Buffalo Shoals Road when a Norfolk Southern train rounded a bend in the track, surprising the group.
Kaiser, 29, and his girlfriend were in a group of four people on the bridge when they heard the train approach and began running, said Martin and Nancy Kaiser, Christopher's parents. They said they learned about the details of the accident from his girlfriend.
They gave the following account:
Kaiser's girlfriend couldn't keep up, so Kaiser stayed at her pace, his parents said. They were running east along the bridge, and everyone else made it off, authorities said.
"She wasn't going to make it," Nancy Kaiser said. "He told her he loved her and pushed her off. That's love."
The train then struck Kaiser and threw him to the bottom of the ravine, killing him.
Kaiser's girlfriend fell 30 to 40 feet in the ravine, the Kaisers said. She was airlifted to Carolinas Medical Center. She was later released and is recuperating at home, the Kaisers said.
They wouldn't identify her, saying they wanted to protect her privacy. They said they remain close to her and consider her to be family.
Authorities haven't released some details of the incident, but have said witnesses told them Christopher Kaiser pushed a woman to safety.
Iredell County sheriff's Capt. Darren Campbell said no crossings were nearby, so the engineer had no need to sound his horn as he approached the trestle.
Iredell County sheriff's investigators said a total of about 12 amateur ghost hunters in different groups were on the trestle. They were hoping to see a "ghost train" - part of the legend of the Bostian Bridge train wreck of Aug. 27, 1891, that killed about 30 people and created a Carolinas ghost story.
The legend started on the first anniversary of the wreck, when a group of people claimed to have met a man, dressed in a railroad uniform, who asked them for the time. Legend has it the man resembled Hugh K. Linkster, a baggage master killed in the wreck. The man vanished before the group's eyes, according to legend.
Campbell said authorities had been told that ghost hunters occasionally gather on the anniversary of the 1891 crash but that they hadn't received complaints.
Friday was Kaiser's first time ghost-hunting on the bridge, his parents said at their home off Mount Holly-Huntersville Road.
He was born in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and moved with his family to Charlotte in 1994, his parents said. He worked the front desk of a hotel.
The Kaisers and daughter Tiffany McAfee, 27, Christopher Kaiser's sibling, said it was like him to think of his girlfriend first. "He helped everybody," Martin Kaiser said.
"He was very giving and always put everybody else ahead of himself," Nancy Kaiser said.