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Man killed by train: Winona's well-known Coca-Cola guy tripped on tracks

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A Winona man was struck and killed by a train Monday morning near Winona State University's campus.

At about 6:40 a.m., Bruce "Ernie" Edward Streng, 51, was attempting to cross the Canadian Pacific tracks at Johnson Street when it appears he tripped and fell, Winona Deputy Police Chief Tom Williams said.

Streng was pronounced dead at the scene.

Crew members of the Canadian Pacific freight train saw Streng and hit the emergency brakes. The large train, pulling more than 100 cars, could not stop in time, Williams said.

It was "extremely unusual" when Streng didn't show up to work at the Coca-Cola Bottling Co. in Winona, said plant manager LeRoy Telstad. Streng, a quality control technician at the plant, was normally at work at 8 a.m. sharp.

"Every morning when (Streng) came to work, the first thing he did was get a cold 10-ounce bottle of Diet Coke, turn on the radio and get about his business," said Telstad. "He was like clockwork."

Streng was known nearly universally around Winona as "the Coca-Cola guy who walked everywhere," Telstad said. Rain or shine, Streng always walked, he said. An employee at the plant for more than 20 years, Streng took a different route to work nearly every day, Telstad said.

"There's probably postal delivery people that knew the streets of Winona better them (Streng), but I doubt it," he said.

Williams said Streng was southbound when attempting to cross the tracks at Johnson Street, a footpath with no lights or signal. The crossing is one of two sites pegged for pedestrian tunnels under the tracks.

A joint effort of Winona State, the Minnesota Department of Education and Canadian Pacific, officials had hoped to start and possibly complete construction of the underpasses this fall, but scheduling conflicts between the agencies delayed the project until the spring, said Kurt Lohide, WSU's vice president of finance and administrative services.

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