this is "nightline." tonight, tragedy on the tracks. a famous face and body reality show workout, struck and killed by a train. seemingly while filming a new video for his fitness. are celebrities taking too many risks for the sake of entertainment? 10,000 children left to fend for themselves, their parents victims of ebola. now we're going into a sunny place where there is hope for a second chance. on this martin luther king day, oprah and other stars of "selma" marching. ♪ common and john legend performing their oscar-nominated song "glory." we're on the ground where it all began, celebrating selma.
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while filming. he's far from the only one pushing the envelope for the sake of entertainment. here's abc's brandi hitt. >> reporter: he's the celebrity fitness expert who starred in reality shows like "workout." his face and body gracing the cover of countless magazines. and potentially dangerous workout videos. but tonight, a tragic turn. the burbank police department is investigating greg plit's unusual death. the 37-year-old killed saturday after being struck by a train. >> mentality, belief confidence in yourself. >> reporter: his powerful words in a motivational video, foretelling of a tragic end. at 4:09 p.m. saturday police responded to a call that plitt was struck and killed by a metro link train in burbank. >> train versus pedestrian. >> reporter: police believe it was an accident, saying plitt was filming some sort of video
on these tracks with two other people. and no permit. >> were there any warning signs? >> yes. the train conductor did see him. he sounded his horn and hit the brakes on the train. but he was unable to stop in time and mr. plitt did not seem to react to the horn. >> here's a good example. here comes an amtrak train behind you, speeding by quietly. it blows its horn. because it sees people here. but many types that train arrives, you didn't hear it coming. >> i didn't hear it at all. >> reporter: metro link telling us they require all film crews to go through a rigorous protocol and safety briefing. unfortunately, this was not authorized, they say and metro link was not aware plitt was filming. >> other than this police tape there's no fencing here. no signage. it's wide open. anyone could easily walk out onto these tracks. >> i don't think he was reckless or anything. i mean in anything he was doing. i think it was that moment, it was a mistake. a momentary mistake.
just a trip he tripped. >> reporter: plitt has posted videos of himself working out on railroad tracks in the past. the west point graduate and former army ranger was known to push the envelope with stunts like these, often taunting death, challenging his thousands of fans online to live a more adventurous and purposeful life. >> he excelled at a very high level. he only wanted the best. >> i definitely see qualities in yeg that would make a good partner. you know he's loyal. he's consistent. >> reporter: plitt was starring in a new reality show "friends to lovers" featuring his relationship with long-time friend turned love interest melanie marden. >> ity a little bit of greg's greatness rubs off on everybody he's introduced to or knows. there were times he would show me e-mails from his fan websites, from kids saying that he saved their lives. because they were so insecure about their body types. you know that his fitness
programs and inspirational talks and motivational seminars have changed their lives. >> reporter: despite the warnings and danger more than 800 people were killed or injured last year trespassing on railroad tracks. an 8% jump over the year before. these two women were nearly run down on a track trestle last summer. saved at the last second only by lying flat between the tracks. last november a young man and woman were also caught on a trestle in virginia. the man was killed. police say they were hundreds of feet in the air on a bridge spanning the tracks when the train approached. >> i just hit kids on the bridge, emergency on the bridge over. >> reporter: a grandfather telling abc news she survived by curling into a ball and leaning off the side of the track. but the plitt case is not the first time a video shoot led to tragedy on the tracks.
in georgia last year 27-year-old sarah jones was part of a film crew shooting the movie "midnight rider." ♪ catch the midnight rider ♪ >> reporter: moments after filming began on this dream sequence, set on a train trestle bridge, everything went horribly wrong. >> i just kept saying over and over, lord help us. god help us. >> reporter: instructed to place their equipment and a metal bed on these railroad tracks, only to see a train coming towards them at 57 miles per hour. >> we need ambulance. someone got hit by a train. >> reporter: startling evidence shows dramatic video taken by a camera mounted inside that oncoming train. the "midnight rider" crew racing off the bridge as the train rapidly approaches the bed that's been left behind on the rails. >> i saw the light of that train. it was like the train was right here.
so you had seconds to figure out what you were going to do. >> reporter: three seconds before impact it's too late to get the bed off the tracks. on impact the bed becomes a deadly weapon. >> sarah was the first person i saw. she was lying on the side of the tracks, dead. i didn't know it was her. >> reporter: like the plitt case the film crew appears to have not had a permit to be shooting on the tracks. the film's director and three senior crew members were charged with involuntary manslaughter. they've each pleaded not guilty. a statement released by the lawyer of the film's director randall miller and his wife producer jody savan, says they believed they had permission to be on the tracks from csx. they had no reason to believe that anyone would be placed in danger. they will live with the sorry of sarah's death for the rest of their lives.
but tonight it's the latest train tragedy in southern california prompting sorrow. the fitness and entertainment worlds are mourning the loss of a rising star greg plitt, many thought was indestructible. >> he shows that you can stumble, you can fall but never give up. they empoe ured people by living by example. and that his body and his lifestyle is achievable. >> reporter: for "nightline," i'm brandi hitt in los angeles. next, what happens to ebola orphans after their parents die from the disease. one little girl's story of homelessness and hope. later on "nightline," a celebration on this mlk day. john legend and common bringing their hit song "glory" to selma. and we're there. d still. but jim has afib, atrial fibrillation an irregular heartbeat not caused by a heart valve problem. that puts jim at a greater risk of stroke. for years, jim's medicine tied him to a monthly trip to the clinic to get his blood tested.
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in an area of the world ravaged by ebola, those who remain could be considered lucky. but for orphaned children the loss of parents also leaves a profound question -- who will love them now? tonight, abc's chief health and medical editor dr. richard besser takes us inside a fading hot zone where so many little ones are looking for hope. as one girl finds her way to a new home. >> i am maria. >> reporter: mercy. like every trusting bright little girl you've ever met. but her world is about to be abandoned forever. >> what's your name? >> my name's mercy. >> where are you coming from now? >> reporter: aid workers have
arrived in her neighborhood in liberia to deal with the aftermath of yet another ebola death. a woman named marie. they've forgotten one thing, to tell the person to whom it will mean most her daughter mercy, that her mom is gone. >> reporter: mercy is heartbroken and there's no one to comfort her. no one will even touch her. >> reporter: these neighbors know too well the risks of taking in someone who might have been exposed to ebola. the ebola virus has an incubation period of up to 21 days. that means an infected person with the disease can show no symptoms, but develop the disease three weeks later. potentially infecting those around them.
in a moment mercy has become an outcast. think of mercy and multiply by 10,000. that's how many orphans have been created by the ebola epidemic ravaging west africa. >> currently we have kids minors, those of them who have become orphaned by ebola. either they didn't get infected with the virus or their parents have been killed. i mean services and support are all gone. >> reporter: perhaps the cruelst part is people here are faced with a choice. between their humanity and their instinct for self-preservation. >> you know why? we're talking ebola. we're friends. we're friends. >> reporter: as the entire world has discovered these fears are not unfounded.
sometimes simple acts of kindness have had deadly consequences that stretch across continents. this apartment here is where eric duncan lived. he's the man who brought ebola to texas. >> reporter: thomas eric duncan was one of mercy's neighbors, living on the same street she did. he carried a sick woman out of a taxi and back to her house. this house. and then took off on a long-planned trip to the united states. reportedly, she was the same woman who infected mercy's mother. >> have there been many people in your area who have ebola? many people sick? >> yes, yes. >> how many? >> two people died. >> reporter: i was reporting on duncan. my colleague was watching 9-year-old mercy grapple with her new reality. >> where will she sleep? >> reporter: it is the height of the outbreak in monrovia. everyone is careful. >> people are getting sick and
dying. >> this society had been vulnerable even before ebola came in, in terms of parents not having capacity to care for their kids. now with ebola coming in it has further dampened or further exacerbated our problem. so it poses a much bigger challenge for these kids. >> just the shock of people dropping dead from something no one ever heard of before. and what the children are going through. this disease is unlike any other. >> reporter: mercy and her brother harris 17 years old, stay alone in their mother's house. a house many are frightened to enter. >> i really feel bad.
>> reporter: the liberian government, with some funding from unicef has set up interim care centers around the country for these orphans. adoption is not allowed in liberiaress this is the only place many of them have to go. here they get much-needed human contact with other children as they wait, holding their breath to see if they get past the 21-day mark without getting sick. >> it is frightening. it's frightening, it's hard also to look at these kids and know that they could have ebola. >> reporter: mercy and harris found their way to this center. here, they have food clean beds, even a bit of fun. it's an instant close-knit community. a reminder of the families these kids once had. and every so often, a miracle. children get to go home and are reunited with family members who have emerged from their battle with ebola. survivors.
>> i'm happy. >> reporter: for little mercy and her brother, who have known so much pain there is another kind of miracle. an old family friend has agreed to take them in. nothing can replace all they've lost. but in their new home, it's a chance for safety. a chance to be loved. but things don't always go well. some orphans here have no one to care for them. and relatives that may want to take a hand can't afford to do so. some end up as free labor and may never go to school. others have even died in their own neighborhoods, unwanted and untouchable.
but mercy and harris have gotten a second chance. on this sunday their song the echos of the hope they've been missing for so long. and a new day is dawning for this country. last week, ebola cases were down to less than one a day. marking a pivotal shift. schools that have been closed for months are finally opening up again. little mercy tries on her new uniform. and for the first time in months, she gets to be a regular little girl. excited at the first day of school. >> i want to go to college. >> reporter: for "nightline," dr. richard besser in monrovia, liberia. next "selma." star oprah marching with her cast members to a historic civil rights battleground celebrating a great leader today.
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to learn about glaucoma and macular degeneration. @@v finally tonight, a look at the man in the movie. today of course is martin luther king jr. day. the movie, the oscar-nominated film "selma," the searing portrait of one of the darkest times of american history and the countless acts of courage. >> i have the pleasure to present to you dr. martin luther king! >> reporter: his words, his famous "i have a dream" speech gave voice to a movie. >> my four little children will one day live in a nation where
they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. i have a dream today. >> reporter: their blood and sacrifice on evan pettis bridge helped give it a soul. in the crowd this weekend the cast of "selma" watching arm in armal the same path martin luther king led civil rights activists down almost 50 years ago. this was a celebration. back then, an act of defiance. the stars behind the film inspired by the strength of peaceful demonstration in the face of violence. >> i'm going to do that not just for myself but so that my children will have rights that i don't even -- can't even imagine. i was really struck by that. >> reporter: and by their leader. >> martin luther king was shot for the work that he did. and knowing that, it's very humbling. >> reporter: the oscar-nominated film "selma" brings the fight
for the right to vote in the segregated south to the big screen. >> i'm just here trying to register to vote. >> reporter: dr. king leading the charge. >> those that have gone before us say, no more. no more. >> reporter: the movie gives the era renewed life. the oscar-nominated song "glory" gives it raw relevance. ♪ ♪ when it's all done we'll cry glory ♪ >> it's an important chronicling of such an important movement that is not over. >> reporter: not over, but far from where it started. when it was all but a dream. ♪ glory glory ♪ >> his words, those times, remind us still, one dream, one
person, can change the world. thank you for watching abc news. tune into "good morning america" tomorrow. as always we're online at abcnews.com. good night, america. bulldog: you don't need superpowers to help someone. sometimes, all it takes is a warm heart and a cold nose. that's why mattress discounters good deed dogs is raising money to train service dogs for people with disabilities. i would never imagine a life again. i relied on people a lot. he helps me live a more independent life. bulldog: we need your help to do more. give at mattressdiscountersdogs.com, or any mattress discounters. mattress discounters good deed dogs helping dogs help people