Man dies on Caltrain tracks in Palo Alto

Adult fatally struck by train near Charleston Road Thursday night

A person was fatally struck by a train in Palo Alto Thursday night, a Caltrain spokeswoman said.

The victim's identity wasn't available Friday morning, though Caltrain spokeswoman Christine Dunn said the person was an adult male.

The collision was reported at 10:10 p.m. on the southbound tracks south of Charleston Road, Dunn said.

Train service was stopped in both directions as emergency crews responded. Dunn said 220 passengers were aboard the train, No. 192, when the collision occurred.

The fatal collision occurred about half an hour after a separate incident on East Meadow Drive in which a car got stuck on the Caltrain tracks. Palo Alto police responded to the scene and a tow truck was called in to remove the car, Dunn said.

More information will be posted as soon as it becomes available.

— Bay City News Service


Posted by Wondering, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 24, 2012 at 8:10 am

Was this incident related to the car that drove into the tracks at Meadow? It happened minutes before. Does anybody knows. Last night they closed traffic at Meadow because of that, and then the person gets hit by the train. Do we know the age of the person who died?

Posted by closeitdown, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 24, 2012 at 8:31 am

They should close both crossings down, it is a killing machine in pa. I feel sad for people who have mental illness and choose this easy access route.

Posted by closeitdown, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 24, 2012 at 8:36 am

Thanks weekly for not reporting unnecessary details.

Posted by KP, a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 24, 2012 at 8:53 am

I want to know ALL the details. I drove up E Meadow to Alma and saw a bunch of police cars going toward Charleston and said "someone got hit". I guessed right.
What's the deal with a car going on the tracks on E Meadow? I haven't seen or heard anything about that yet.

Posted by Get Real, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2012 at 8:55 am

Trains benefit the environment. The trains need to stay. We can't work our lives around the minority who choose to leave us. Drugs kill more people than trains.

Posted by high speed, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2012 at 9:27 am

I'm sad for the person who took their life; no other way to stop their pain. I am sad for the family who has lost their member. I'm sad for the train engineer. I'm sad for the passengers. I'm sad for the police and paramedics. I'm sad for all the families who live near the sites where many too many people, young and old have given up their life.

Perhaps the high speed is the answer - get the tracks off the ground. California State should help all the families who would be affected by the high speed elevated tracks move their houses and relocate them at no expense. Elevated tracks in NY, Chicago, and all over Europe are fantastic. We all need to be the change in our community.

Posted by closeitdown, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 24, 2012 at 9:36 am

They can close it down by putting up barriers around crossing tracks in pa.The trains can still run but the crossings is closed by concret barriers.The city has the power to do it.

Posted by JT, a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 24, 2012 at 9:53 am

I wish Palo Alto Online/Weekly would reassess its decision to publicize suicides with headlines at the top of its page. I realize that your report today is more toned down than the story you posted last year about a Paly student taking her life in her own home. I think most people (and even journalists) would consider suicides in the home to be a private matter that shouldn't be reported. You should balance your desire for more pageviews with a concern for the community.

Posted by Enough!, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Feb 24, 2012 at 10:06 am

The tracks aren't killing machines. They are stationary. You have to actually physically GO to the tracks to cause you harm.

Posted by stretch, a resident of another community
on Feb 24, 2012 at 10:35 am

I think "they" should ban cars, because they are killing machines. And guns. How about knives, while we're at it? Pain pills. It's a little over the top to blame the trains for this kind of suicide. If they close the crossings, how will traffic get across? Won't people who are bent on suicide by train just jump over the concrete barriers?

It's a sad thing for everyone involved, but pointing fingers and assessing blame doesn't make sense.

Posted by closeitdown, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 24, 2012 at 10:40 am

The cars can go to san antonio road

Posted by closeitdown, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 24, 2012 at 10:41 am

Close the train crossings down in pa.We do not need this transit going through our neighborhood harming innocent mentally ill people any more.

Posted by think about it, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2012 at 10:42 am

If you close the crossings, how do JLS and Gunn students get to school? There is not a reasonable alternative for biking or walking students.

Posted by saleha, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Feb 24, 2012 at 10:42 am

No one's saying it's a suicide could have been an accident, so we should not make assumptions until we know.

Posted by Frank, a resident of Ventura
on Feb 24, 2012 at 10:45 am

We need grade separated crossing - we are rich enough to do this. I think it matters less if the street goes under the tracks like University Ave and Oregon Expressway or over like San Antonio Ave; or even if the train goes down into a trench as was one of the proposals for HSR.

But the current arrangement seems to be a magnet for disaster.

Posted by Look for Solutions, a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 24, 2012 at 10:52 am

If there is a known problem at this ONE intersection, wise minds should address it, traffic engineers and Caltrain. But all the facts are not known now: this could be an accident, or a suicide.

We need trains, we need cars, we need bicycles. Even guns have their place in our society, when used correctly. Use is critical.

For the misuse of trains, cars, bikes and guns, we need people that will step to the plate and recogonize when others are hurting, and intervene, so that suicides will be reduced. Often people display behavior that ought not be ignored.

Solutions are out there. Placing guards everywhere is not the answer.
In the case of a car careening onto train tracks, even a guard could be hit there, and by accident.

Posted by Been here too long, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 24, 2012 at 11:10 am

I have been in this area since the 70s.

@KP - your desire for the details in admirable, but the desire to keep the details relevant (What, when, where) have been addressed. If the police don't release the details you can't get the who and it will always be speculation as to the why.

@closeitdown - your argument is similar to other organizations that obfuscate the issue. In your case you make the statement they are killing machines, really? By that logic, so are coconuts falling from trees, should we cut those down? As noted by stretch - many things are killing machines, the leap to shut it down removes the actual point of society and discourse to find a solution.


Currently on the peninsula there is great deal of NimBy activity about HSR, why? The majority are for this mode of transport and we fight over the implementation details as opposed to greater benefits. People are holding their limited inconveniences above those of the greater good.

I am an advocate of medium density multi-use facilities (see the Alma/Meadow site for example) that allows many people to benefit from services without the need for a car.

I believe that University is a nightmare and would GREATLY benefit from a ring road (use high and cowper as the north/south corridors and lytton/hamilton as the east/west). Am I popular in that view, depends on the audience.

If we truly are a city that is progressive and finding ways to improve our carbon footprint, why are we fighting over joining the many cities on the peninsula and eastbay that already offer curb-side composting?

If we take pride in having great options for bicycles (with out boulevards that run north to south and east to west), our great tree lined streets, why do we resist the concept of shutting down University from High to Cowper? The shop owners would have greater foot traffic, the farmers market would have a new venue to move to from the old post office, a great location for food trucks, and I am sure there are others that have better ideas than I.

I apologize for the segue from sensationalizing fatalities to a greener PA, but I am sick of seeing our great city change from what it was (a great laid back town of people were not overly obsessed with being the "it" person of the week (or is now moment?))


Posted by casablanca, a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 24, 2012 at 11:47 am

I am not commenting on this report directly. I just want to remind people that if someone needs help call a hotline to seek help. I have personally attended a funeral for a young man who killed himself on the tracks. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Do not waste your life like this. Think of people who needs organ
Donations! Live your life to its fullest ,there must be a reason for you to be alive!
Donate your organ parts after your natural death.
Peace, health and serenity .

Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 24, 2012 at 12:13 pm

Interesting collection of comments, as usual.

Was this related at all to the 1/2-second electrical grid power glitch shortly afterwards? I didn't note the exact time, maybe around 10:40 pm.

Posted by Johnson, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 24, 2012 at 12:15 pm

When the pain of living becomes greater than the pain of getting hit by a train, then that's a lot of pain.

Posted by old timer, a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 24, 2012 at 1:05 pm

The tracks have been there for 160 years. They did not ALL OF A SUDDEN become a problem. Knee jerk efforts like turning the tracks into a miles long barrier aren't going solve a thing. Better to work on the problem.

Posted by closeitdown, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 24, 2012 at 1:09 pm

Who wants a long barrier?They just have to close pa crossings to take away an easy access.

Posted by closeitdown, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 24, 2012 at 1:15 pm

There is no train running the whole day, it must be accident. They must close it down.

Posted by after, a resident of Southgate
on Feb 24, 2012 at 1:35 pm

did anyone realize there was a huge white flash in the sky thursday night. then power went off ,but came on very soon after. there was also a electric buzz sound like when power is knocked out.

Posted by Options, a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 24, 2012 at 1:40 pm

Lets keep in mind:

If someone wants to commit does not make a bit of difference if the rails are either at grade, elevated or depressed. If not a train, a car...if not a car an overpass. To steal from another source "its not the medium..its the message".

Elevating the trains would result in a physical barrier between the east and west sides of Palo Alto. Think of having a 20 foot high berm in the middle of town like in San Carlos. This is not a reasonable option.

Placing the train in a depressed condition is hugely expensive and technologically challenging. Remember, most of Palo Alto is just above sea level, depressing the train will involve dealing with ground water. Additionally, each creek that crosses the tracks will need to be diverted under the right of way which is also expensive and problematic.

Depressing further, into tunnels is out of the question as the expense can be as much as $100k/foot of tunnel. There is just no sustainable funding mechanism (or public will) for such an expensive option.

We will need to deal with the at grade rails for the foreseeable future.

Perhaps a more effective approach is a better mental health care system. My employer has a rather typical health insurance program. It provides for only 5 site visit to a therapist in one year. We would not stand for this behavior if our health plans limited a surgeon to a maximum of 5 stitches to close any open wound in a year. How can we expect our mental health system to be effective if we limit the required treatments in such a short sighted manor?

Perhaps if we leaned on our regulators to require a more effective approach to managing mental health issues...we would not be having this discussion in the first place.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 24, 2012 at 2:12 pm

Closing the crossings will not stop the problem. To think so is very naive.

I don't want to get censored by the Mod, so no details - but there are some other very obvious and easy ways to access the tracks other than the car crossings...and you don't have to hop a fence or a barrier.

Posted by Sally, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Feb 24, 2012 at 2:30 pm

This thread has had a few comments that may just be coincidental, but confirm what happened in our house last night. My son also saw the flash of light in the sky at about 10:30pm. His bedroom window faces north. The flash happened at same time as the power glitch.

Does anyone know what the flash was or what caused the power glitch?

Posted by Condolences, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 24, 2012 at 2:52 pm

First and foremost, my condolences to the family and friends of this person. I don't know what happened and would rather not speculate. To me, it's another precious life lost, plain and simple.

In terms of the power surge, I also felt it last night, sometime between 10:40pm and 10:50pm. It was a flash, then a short power surge, and then a buzzing sound. I was pretty spooked about it.

Again, my condolences.

Posted by Ann , a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 24, 2012 at 3:13 pm

I'm sad for man who lost his life and for his family. RIP.

Posted by Lucy, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 24, 2012 at 6:00 pm

Closing down the crossings would be an idiotic idea. How would pedestrians and bicyclists travel across Alma?

The key to stopping people from killing themselves (not saying that this was a suicide attempt) isn't to close down crossings. It's to have open avenues of conversation and providing the mentally ill the help they need.

Besides that, even if the crossings were closed, a person who wants to commit suicide isn't going to let a fence or wall stop them.

I don't even know what to say about the majority of people that have posted comments on this article. The trains aren't out to get people.

Posted by concerned parent, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Feb 24, 2012 at 6:18 pm

>>It's to have open avenues of conversation and providing the mentally ill the help they need.

That obviously hasn't helped despite best efforts by schools and the community. What happened to the idea of safety catch in front of the engine OR a speed reduction to 15mph between Palo Alto (University Avenue) and Mountain View (San Antonio)? As has been proven time and again in studies it's the 15-20 minutes after someone decides to commit suicide, when access matters.

Posted by Mozelle, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 24, 2012 at 7:17 pm

My heartfelt sympathy to the family of the gentleman who lost his life last night at the train intersection.

Posted by The Ghost of George Orwell, a resident of Gunn High School
on Feb 24, 2012 at 8:22 pm

Ah, of course... he wasn't "killed" by the train, he was "fatally struck" by the train.

Orwell, George. "Politics and the English Language".
Web Link

Posted by Sympathetic , a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 24, 2012 at 10:38 pm

Respectful of the family's pain. Stop looking for answers/solutions to this problem. They do not exist. This life is not enough to some and too much to others.

Posted by Lucy, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 25, 2012 at 12:39 am

@Concerned Parent

Right. If a person is going to commit suicide and is set on it, closing down crossings isn't going to stop them. Neither is communicating, obviously, but at least if parents talk to their kids about it and don't judge their children or belittle their feelings, it could lessen that.

I grew up in PA and went through the school systems. I've been a depressed teen and adult. I remember attending Paly when two of the students committed suicide. It's a tragic thing but most of the solutions people are writing in the comments won't do anything.

Whether or not this person killed themselves or simply didn't get out of the way, it's still tragic but blaming it on the trains does nothing.

Posted by European-born, a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 25, 2012 at 12:41 am

In Europe and other continents have had trains and tracks for hundreds of years, and people coexisted with them just fine.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 25, 2012 at 4:29 pm

I strongly suggest not looking up the European rail statistics. Interesting correlation with gun control laws.

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