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UND student identified as man dead in Grand Forks railyard

Police have identified the man found dead Saturday morning in the BNSF Railway yard in Grand Forks as 20-year-old UND student Blake Christopher Ayling.

The preliminary investigation showed that Ayling was going through the yard when he was made contact with a moving train.

Although police said he suffered injuries consistent with being dragged by a train, the cause of death won't be established until an autopsy is performed, which could be a several week process.

Ayling's body was found about 7:30 a.m. by BNSF employees in the rail yard west of the Columbia Road overpass, just south of the UND campus and north of DeMers Avenue.

"The University of North Dakota community is greatly saddened to learn of the death of student Blake Ayling," UND President Robert Kelley said in a release. "We have lost a member of our university family, a pre-entrepreneurship major who was on both the UND President's Roll of Honor and the UND Deans' List. We extend our sympathy and heartfelt condolences to Blake's family and many friends at UND and elsewhere."

Grand Forks Police Lt. Jim Remer said he was last seen by roommates Friday at 10:30 p.m. and had cell phone contact with others between 11:30 p.m. and midnight.

Remer said it appears Ayling was cutting through the yard on his way to meet friends.

"It's a possibility he was crossing the railroad tracks to meet up with either one or two different groups of friends," Remer said.

It is uncertain whether alcohol played a factor in the death.

"It's a possibility, speaking to people that knew him, but we don't have anything definitively," Remer said.

Kelley also said the University Counseling Center would be available for students who needed its services. Appointments can be made by calling (701) 777-2127. The center can be visited online by going to

He said faculty and staff are welcome to consult UND's Employee Assistance Plan if they feel they may need counseling. It can be found online at