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Coroner identifies Woman killed by Caltrain Monday

Original post made on Aug 11, 2009

The woman killed by a Caltrain Monday evening was identified today as Leila Ruth Dewitt of Mountain View. The Santa Clara County Medical Examiner-Coroner's office said no other information could be released until an official investigation is complete.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, August 12, 2009, 9:04 AM

Comments (31)

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Posted by Evan
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 11, 2009 at 10:15 am

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE grade separate Caltrain and/or HSR so people can no longer just wonder onto the tracks. The loss of life and subsequent delays are too much to bear.


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of another community
on Aug 11, 2009 at 10:23 am

Sadly, it is well-established that when someone intends to commit suicide, he/she will find a way to do it. Granted, stepping out in front of a train causes pain to many people who are innocent bystanders, making them all victims of a form of emotional abuse. However, to pay for grade separations, barriers on the Golden Gate, etc. creates a different kind of burden on everyone as well. Seems there is no permanent solution.


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Posted by Not Again
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 11, 2009 at 10:35 am

please stop all this psycho babble like ...

innocent bystanders as victims of emotional abuse.

it is concern and sympathy for those who suffer and die

we are not abused, just human, reacting as humans do with compassion


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Posted by davis
a resident of Woodside
on Aug 11, 2009 at 10:52 am

people don't "wander" onto the tracks. Everyone who commits suicide does so selfishly, without regard for those who remain that must cope with the loss or those who must pick up after them....there will always be suicide and the question it provokes.."Is life really worth it?"


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Posted by Sign of Times?
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 11, 2009 at 10:54 am


Unfortunately, we cannot prevent suicide. What we CAN do is be observant of those around us - those who are in our lives. One can never be sure that someone is planning a suicidal event, but if we are attentive, hopefully we will be able to adequately support those who are part of our daily lives - close friends and relatives. But we can't physically prevent these things - I think that is what anonymous was trying to say - and I totally agree. More pressures on people today - not enough opportunities or resources. It adds up to real challenges!


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Posted by Casey
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 11, 2009 at 11:04 am

Maybe massive, high speed trains are incompatible with our urban environment. I am reminded of a chapter from Thomas the Tank Engine where the policeman ticketed Thomas because he didn't have cow catchers and side plates, and posed a hazard to the public. The solution as any child would tell you is to shuttle workers using Toby the Tram a/k/a light rail up and down the peninsula. Yes, the light rail can still strike pedestrians and cars, but the effects are often not as devastating.


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Posted by DZ
a resident of Barron Park School
on Aug 11, 2009 at 11:49 am

Here he comes, and he takes, just as he has always been doing. People just watching it eat the flash of the weaker ones of us, then move on...
Why there are much less suicides with BART? I don't trust what Caltrain says, do they have video to prove? What have them done to improve themselves rather than raising the volume of the horn? They calculate people life against their "Operation cost", as long as it is cheaper to kill people than updating the facility, they will just keep on doing that!


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Posted by Concerned
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 11, 2009 at 12:03 pm


DZ, maybe if people are willing to pay $100 or more for a fare, Caltrain will be able to afford more security along their routes. Just a thought.


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Posted by JustMe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 11, 2009 at 12:51 pm

I am waiting for an ID and age of the victim.


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Posted by Gabe
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 11, 2009 at 1:04 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Oleg
a resident of another community
on Aug 11, 2009 at 2:24 pm


Totally agree with Casey: those heavy diesel powered trains are like reptiles from the past in high populated Peninsula with so many car and pedestrian crossings and buildings nearby. I'm afraid even to imagine what could have happened, if such a train derails while going at 70 MPH.

Look at VTA's light rail - a much more modern and safe alternative. Of course, it would take longer to travel between SF and SJ on a light rail, but the public transportation is provided mostly for those who have no real alternative and so longer travel times would not be a top concern.

Another thing that shocks me is how those express trains pass station platforms at very high speeds without even slightly slowing down. I've been to many countries in Europe and have never seen anything like this. Considering we live in civilized country and it is 2009, simply unbelievable.

It is true that if a person decides to commit suicide, he/she will find a way, but making it so easy to do is what is wrong. It takes literally a one step from easily accessible area, leaving a struggling person almost no time to possibly reconsider and change her mind.

Hopefully the authorities will analyze these recent cases and come up with a better alternative to this violent thing of the past which no doubt Caltrain has been for a while.


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Posted by JustMe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 11, 2009 at 4:09 pm

Gabe, while there may be some truth in inconvienience caused to people by the suicides, and possible danger in memorializing them, I find that approach to be just a little too cold-hearted to be acceptable.

Oleg, in spite of the trains passing through the stations at 70+ MPH, we do not seem to be losing people from the platforms. This is probably due to the fact that we ARE a civilized people who know better, as a rule, than to wander in front of trains. I worry more for cars at the crossings than I do about people on the platforms.

How about we mount a side-ways trampoline on the front of the trains to bounce people out of the way?


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Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 11, 2009 at 5:53 pm

"Look at VTA's light rail - a much more modern and safe alternative. Of course, it would take longer to travel between SF and SJ on a light rail, but the public transportation is provided mostly for those who have no real alternative and so longer travel times would not be a top concern."

Um, there are many many people who commute on Caltrain daily and where shorter travel times are important. The VTA is a joke that no one rides and goes no where important.


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Posted by YSK
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 11, 2009 at 6:06 pm

The trains were here before us, and shall remain after. If not this way, they will find another. Or so I hear.


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Posted by Anthony
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 12, 2009 at 12:16 am

Caltrain is just minting money and killing people and labelling it as suicide.


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 12, 2009 at 3:20 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

How many people suicide by jumping down elevator shafts? It would be less expensive to omit doors and just caution people to not stand close to the openings, as was done in certain industrial applications in my youth, but we don't. With a secure right of way, and no grade crossings like BART, the next step would be to emulate some Moscow subways where automatic doors on the platform do not open until the train doors are opposite doors in the platform and the train is stopped. Incidentally, the fatality rate on light rail is non zero.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 12, 2009 at 6:05 am

Minting money? Be serious.

Public transit is a constant money loser and only survives due to subsidies via our taxes and tolls. Caltrain, though a very good provider of commute transportation, could be renamed "Caldrain". Same goes for all other local tranpertation agencies.


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Posted by JustMe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 12, 2009 at 10:02 am

"Caltrain is just minting money and killing people and labelling it as suicide."

What reality are you from? Caltrain minting money? If they were, they would not be so deep in the red. Caltrain killing people and labeling it suicide? You mean they are murdering people who do not wish to die and saying it is a suicide? How else would you label it when the victim is seen to apparently purposefully step in front of the train? I have yet to hear of the train leaving the tracks to chase down its victims.


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Posted by Evan
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 12, 2009 at 10:42 am

"Public transit is a constant money loser and only survives due to subsidies via our taxes and tolls. Caltrain, though a very good provider of commute transportation, could be renamed "Caldrain". Same goes for all other local tranpertation agencies."

Have you ever driven on a road before? Who paid for that road? Oh, right — City, state and perhaps federal governments did. Are those roads in front of your house turning a profit? I didn't think so. So why are you complaining that Caltrain, which gets people up and down the Peninsula just as roads do, doesn't turn a profit?

Oh, and props to Casey for the Thomas the Tank Engine reference. George Carlin would be proud.


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Posted by D Krauss
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 12, 2009 at 11:06 am

Our condolences to Leila's family. She took dance classes at Zohar and even brought her grandfather to meet us not too long ago.


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Posted by Moe
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 12, 2009 at 11:52 am

It saddens me greatly to imagine the desperation that must have compelled a person to take such drastic action. It also causes me pain to think of the grief and terrible feelings the family must now endure. Nevertheless, the solution must perhaps be found in support services to people in emotional need rather than useless barriers to trains and bridges etc.


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 12, 2009 at 12:28 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

"Useless" barriers? Is my effort, in electrical engineering, to make it more difficult for people to contact current carrying stuff useless? Isn't it enough that I say "don't touch"? I am obliged to design to make accidental contact with live components almost impossible and intentional contact very difficult. Railroads are held to a lower standard.


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Posted by Another Concerned Citizen
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 12, 2009 at 12:30 pm

My heart goes out to Leila's family. I really think that suicides are on the upswing. Trains don't kill people (read some of the headlines......"Caltrain Kills Woman" etc. I think that perhaps seeing a quick and seemingly "easy" way of doing oneself in may play into "death by train". Those that have lost their loved ones over the railings of The Golden Gate Bridge are constantly pleading for better barriers which would make it impossible to jump. I am not sure how far those barriers have gone. I know someone who survived the jump who had tried to commit suicide with another method unsuccessfully a few weeks before her jump. She saw the bridge as a final solution I guess. She suffered from grave mental illness and was obviously not getting the kind of help she needed even though she was seeing a mental health professional. The point I was trying to make with her story is that if people are bound and determined to kill themselves they will usually find a way to do it. I think the train is an attractive nuisance and makes the fleeting thought of suicide more easily brought to execution. If they had to plan out some big deal and write a note etc. they might not choose that method. In fact, I am curious as to how many of the folks who use the train as an exit vehicle had a plan and a note etc. In other words, is suicide more a spontaneous phenomenon when the train is the so called killer?
Adequate mental health services are so lacking in our society and stigma still exists about reaching out for help. I would like to know whether alcohol or other drugs were present in the victim's blood at the time of the suicide as I think far more suicides are due to addictions that have spun out of the person's control with no knowledge about where to go for help.
I pray that those who need help will find the resources needed when they reach that point. There is help out there!


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Posted by chuck walters
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 12, 2009 at 1:32 pm

We can not suicide proof the world. Those that are determined to end their lives will find a way wether it's jumping from a bridge or stepping in front of a train. We could spend millions to suicide proof Cal-Train only to have suicidal people switching to jumping off buildings. Where there's a will, they'll find a way. My heart goes out to the train engineers, some have been involved in several suicides. Imagine their dreams. When I was 25, a distraught person leaped from seventh floor of a hotel and landed fifteen in front of my girlfriend and I. I'd been in Vietnam and had seen some bad things. None that have given me as many nightmares as the jumper has. It was worse my friend, as she required professional help for many year thereafter and was never anywhere near the happy person she'd been. I'm sorry for people the decide there is no other way but to kill themselves. I just wish they'd consider the effect on innocent folks of THEIR act and and either reconsider it or just get PRIVATELY lost in the woods somewhere. Let the bears and what not worry about the nightmares.


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Posted by Francis Jones
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 12, 2009 at 1:55 pm

Unfortunately, those with the will and determination to commit suicide will do it one way or another. They just do not understand that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.


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Posted by tb
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 12, 2009 at 2:21 pm

your demonizing of these people id precisely why they did it in first place.they killed themselves because society wont admit its messed up. 3 billion a week for questionable ''war''


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Posted by Gabe
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 12, 2009 at 2:34 pm

The news outlets should stop publicizing the names of suicide perpetrators. It is a private business, and it should not concern the rest of us, unless we are close to the family. Publicity just encourages more of it.


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Posted by Mike Alexander
a resident of another community
on Aug 12, 2009 at 5:01 pm

I'll miss Leila and her special spark. She told me weeks ago she was dying, and I didn't believe her. RIP. Pete, keep coming for coffee, and let me know how I can help.


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Posted by war?
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 12, 2009 at 8:38 pm

These three killed themselves because of the war in Iraq?

Most of this discussion is happening in a vacuum. The information about why these people made the choice they did is not public.


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Posted by Pete
a resident of Terman Middle School
on Aug 13, 2009 at 9:34 am

It feels very strange posting here, but since its local its sort of makes sense. Thank everyone who knew her for their sympathy I will pass it on to her family. I can say she was very sick from which we were unable to find relief for and in tremendous pain. She was 42 years old , and I know they broke the mold when they made her. She would not have wanted anyone else to suffer from her decision, she was not that kind of person. I'm sorry if this traumatized anyone else who may have witnessed it or been involved. Sorrier still that she's not here.


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 13, 2009 at 10:18 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

"We can not suicide proof the world."
Perfection is the enemy of good enough, Chuck. The same steps that make suicide more difficult also protect the rest of us from the careless or inattentive acts of ourselves and others. Children need protection from their ignorance. Besides, all the remedies I have discussed would cost less than the value of the time lost to all and the lost value of the deceased.


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