Woman fatally hit by train Monday identified

Palo Alto resident Heather Russell, 29, dies in collision

Monday's Caltrain fatality was identified today (Tuesday) as Heather Russell, 29, of Palo Alto.

The Santa Clara County Coroner's Office declined to state whether her 11:30 a.m. death was a suicide.

Russell reportedly sat down between the Caltrain tracks north of the San Antonio station and was killed late Monday morning by a southbound train, according to a police detective.

Russell entered the southbound tracks behind an apartment complex on Del Medio Avenue, at the Mountain View/Palo Alto border, at approximately 11:25 to 11:30 a.m., according to officials.

The area, which is surrounded by shrubbery and not easily seen, is one of the few access points not barricaded by a tall chain-link fence, according to Detective Victor Lopez of the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office Transit Police Bureau.

"She sat down between the gauge of the tracks. The engineer went into emergency braking and honked the horn, then the train struck her," Lopez said.

Caltrain service was delayed approximately 20 minutes in both directions and trains were routed to a single track.

The train engineer, who was not identified, was returning to San Jose and was pulled from duty as a matter of Caltrain policy. The engineer's state of mind is about what one would expect after being involved in a fatality, Lopez said.

"It's a horrible incident," he said.

Bay City News Service contributed to this report.


Posted by So very sad, a resident of another community
on May 4, 2009 at 3:09 pm

My condolences to the family.

Posted by San Antonio station caltrain rider, a resident of Midtown
on May 4, 2009 at 8:03 pm

I was on the southbound train immediately before this one! This is terribly shaking news.

Posted by JSD, a resident of Palo Verde
on May 4, 2009 at 8:12 pm

My heart goes out to the train engineer.

Posted by YSK, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 5, 2009 at 8:25 am

Sorry Lady. I wouldn't do it myself, but I can truly empathize. It's really really bad out here. Sorry you thought this was your only option.

Posted by anon, a resident of another community
on May 5, 2009 at 9:47 am

there are a lot of suicide ghosts at that stretch of track

Posted by Mel, a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 5, 2009 at 10:16 am

And also thoughts and support to the first responders, the police officers, medics, and firefighters, who deal with any life saving efforts, investigation, family notifications, etc. All things that most of us would never wish to do.

Posted by Knave Murdok, a resident of Mountain View
on May 5, 2009 at 1:17 pm

I knew and worked with this woman for going on two years.
She was kind every day I knew her, and a joy to be around.
I knew she was having problems, but never would have guessed she'd do something like this.
We will miss her always, I hope she knows that.

Posted by, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 5, 2009 at 1:55 pm

Hi Knave,

I am writing a story about Heather and would like to portray her as accurately as possible. Can you and/or others who knew her contact me? My work number is 650-326-8210 x206.

Posted by Joe, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on May 5, 2009 at 4:42 pm

I see an article from September, 2008, is this the same person that killed herself?

Duck pond stroll results in drug charges

A man and woman out for a stroll to the duck pond in the Palo Alto Baylands were stopped and arrested by police early Tuesday morning, in part because they were visiting the duck pond at 3 a.m. when the area is closed to the public.

Heather Russell, 29, of Palo Alto and Ronald Chapman II, 26, of Belmont were stopped by police and found to be in possession of marijuana and other drugs, according to Police Agent Dan Ryan. Russell was also found to be under the influence of drugs.

Chapman also had an outstanding warrant for possession of a controlled substance, Ryan added.

Posted by trevor, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 5, 2009 at 7:27 pm

She never seemed like the kind of person to do this every time I hung out with her she was always peppy and up beat, she never really let any thing phase her. ill miss her so much i just wish i could see her one more time

Posted by David, a resident of another community
on May 5, 2009 at 7:37 pm

I ride Caltrain every day from Redwood City to Santa Clara. Unfortunately, these incidents happen far too frequently. My heart aches for the pain, anguish, and desperation this woman felt. Caltrain has added a lot of fencing to help prevent this, but there are still a lot of acces points. They really need to step it up. These trains travel at up to 79 mph! I believe the fencing should be more like Bart.

Posted by Bart, a resident of The Greenhouse
on May 5, 2009 at 7:52 pm

Even with all the fencing, if a person really wants to commit suicide, they will find a way. A very sad state of affairs.

Posted by A Friend, a resident of Midtown
on May 5, 2009 at 9:55 pm

I'll miss you Heather. You were one of the nicest people ever. I'm sorry this had to end as it did.

Posted by shelby, a resident of Midtown
on May 5, 2009 at 11:04 pm

heather was the sweetest woman i knew.
everyone loved her, i will miss you very much.

Posted by Nathalie, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 5, 2009 at 11:55 pm

Heather was a great person. She always seemed so happy, this is shocking. We miss you Heather

Posted by Kelsey, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 6, 2009 at 11:00 am

Heather was an amazing person, always fun to be around, down for anything, hella chill. she never tripped off the little shit, she was always looking on the bright side. I guess this was just a spur of the moment thing, I wish it never happened. She was a good friend of mine, my condolences to her family.

Posted by ugh, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 6, 2009 at 5:09 pm

I don't think it was spur of the moment. she had been missing and her boyfriend had been beating the shit out of her. I don't know how her friends could not have noticed this.

Posted by right plaza kids, a resident of Downtown North
on May 6, 2009 at 5:42 pm

those of you who hung out in the plaza werent friends. you were the ones that dragged her down with this alcohol and drug use and brought that PATHETIC man around her and didnt even try and stop him from hurting her. if anything you are responsible too.

hope you sleep well at night knowing that.

Posted by Zaara, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 6, 2009 at 10:20 pm

I can't even explain how surreal this is and how incredibly out of character this was for her. I wish I could have talked to her one last time - I saw her on Saturday, 2 days before this happened, and we had an insightful conversation; that's why it's so sad to comprehend that in all the comfort she claimed to have gotten from those of us who were doing out best to watch out for her, she still felt the need to resort to this.
We all love her and hope she's reached peace.

Posted by Joey, a resident of another community
on May 14, 2009 at 4:13 pm

My heart goes out to the family. Parents love and care for their children as best as they can, then you just pray that they make good choices. No one will ever really know what really happened and why, but Heather's parents did their best in raising her. She was a wonderful girl who happened to make a bad choice in the people she chose to follow. The family has a strong faith and many friends and through their faith, they will be comforted and in God's time, they will be healed. Heather, may you find eternal peace and love in God's arms.

Posted by bruce, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 16, 2009 at 10:29 pm

my sorrow and condolences for all involved in this sad incident.

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