Beauty Queen Text-Messaging When Hit

In this photo provided the Miss Deaf Texas Pageant via the Austin American Statesman, Tara McAvoy is shown as she wins the Miss Deaf Texas crown June 25, 2005.
Austin police now say the reigning Miss Deaf Texas was killed by a freight train apparently while text-messaging family and friends on her cell phone.

Eighteen-year-old Tara Rose McAvoy of Austin was killed Monday afternoon while walking along the Union Pacific tracks in South Austin. Police say she apparently was walking from her family's home to her mother's workplace when she was hit.

McAvoy, who had been deaf since birth, won the state title in June and represented the state "with dignity and pride," state pageant director Laura Loeb-Hill told The Associated Press via e-mail Monday night. She was to represent Texas at the Miss Deaf America pageant this summer in Palm Desert, Calif.

The 65-car train was hauling a fleet of cars from Mexico to St. Louis. Police say the train's crew spotted her and sounded the locomotive's horn, but got no response. The lead locomotive's snowplow — which extends 16 inches on both sides of the track— clipped McAvoy, killing her.

Police say her family said they'd never known her to walk along those tracks before.

Gene Mirus, a deaf studies instructor at Gallaudet, the nation's leading university for the hearing-impaired, told the Austin American-Statesman that many deaf people who think they can detect approaching trains by their vibrations are mistaken — that contrary to what many people think, there are no vibrations on railroad tracks.