News

Coroner's office identifies man hit by train Tuesday

Former Berkeley resident Kyle Hodder-Hastorf died early Tuesday in a possible intentional act

The man killed by a southbound Caltrain in Palo Alto early Tuesday morning (Jan. 4) has been identified as Kyle Hodder-Hastorf, 19, a former resident of Berkeley who recently moved to Palo Alto.

The Santa Clara County Coroner-Medical Examiner's Office identified the man after a delay caused by computer-access problems. He was a "relatively new" resident of Palo Alto, a coroner's office investigator said this morning (Jan. 7).

Hodder-Hastorf was struck by a southbound train at about 1:20 a.m., four-tenths of a mile north of the California Avenue station.

Caltrain spokeswoman Christine Dunn said the man was hit about four-tenths of a mile north of the California Avenue station at a location where there is no vehicle or pedestrian crossing.

"A preliminary investigation indicates that this was an intentional act," she said.

Access to the tracks is restricted by a fence bordering the east side of the tracks and houses with fenced yards lining its west side.

Train 198 continued on to the California Avenue station, where its 30 passengers were disembarked. Another local train was dispatched and picked up the passengers at 2:45 a.m., Dunn said.

It was the first Caltrain fatality of 2011, Dunn said. In 2010, there were 11 fatalities on the Caltrain right of way, down from 19 a year earlier.

-- Bay City News Service and Palo Alto Online staff

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Train Neighbor
a resident of Ventura
on Jan 6, 2011 at 7:16 am

My deepest sympathies to his family and friends.


Like this comment
Posted by Sad
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 6, 2011 at 7:19 am

Sad to see another young person, with so much life ahead of him, be overwhelmed by darkness. Also a little disconcerting that the PAPD can claim that he "lived in Palo Alto but did not attend a Palo Alto High School" when they haven't yet positively ID'd him. They obviously have investigative techniques of the highest order.


Like this comment
Posted by mental health
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 6, 2011 at 8:03 am

I am glad to hear that suicides dropped so significantly from 2009 to 2010. I have to assume that the various mental health counselling and other suicide prevention programs are having an effect.

My condolences to this person's family.


Like this comment
Posted by Not again
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 6, 2011 at 8:07 am

Not again. We almost made it to one year without incidents. Oh, my God. What is going on with out youngsters.


Like this comment
Posted by Nate
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 6, 2011 at 8:43 am

Journalistic conundrum:Reporting on these suicides leads to more suicides. Are local journalists more bound to their professional integrity or the betterment of the community?

For a poignant section about viral thoughts of suicide, read Malcom Gladwell's "The Tipping Point."


Like this comment
Posted by Jessica
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 6, 2011 at 9:11 am

So sad to hear this. Whether or not he was a student in Palo Alto doesn't affect the fact that the world has lost someone with so much potential. I wish he knew there was someone to talk to.


Like this comment
Posted by Evan
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 6, 2011 at 9:23 am

Can we PLEASE get grade separation? This can't continue. Though I still have a tough time figuring out why Palo Alto has had such a larger problem with fatalities-by-Caltrain than other communities near the tracks. But regardless, grade separation would largely eliminate this problem.


And yikes, the passengers who were already riding the last Caltrain had to wait until 2:45 to get a new train? That's unreal. Seems like it would have been easier to appropriate a VTA bus or something.


Like this comment
Posted by Wilson
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 6, 2011 at 9:37 am


> it would have been easier to appropriate a VTA bus or something.

For only 30 passengers .. Caltrain could have sprung for cabs .. and got these people home as quickly as possible. Another example of an organization with its head in the sand.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 6, 2011 at 9:44 am

Tragic tragedy indeed.

Why say four tenths of a mile North of Cal Ave. Isn't this nearer the Churchill crossing?

If we are talking about him getting onto the tracks at Cal Ave station, then it has nothing to do with grade separation. If it happened near Churchill, then we are. It is a big difference.


Like this comment
Posted by virginia warheit
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 6, 2011 at 10:04 am

This is a know suicide attractor that is not adequately protected, its that simple.
The drop in deaths shows that added barriers, monitoring, etc. are effective.
The continuing deaths show that the job is not finished.
It is absolutely possible to secure the entire line with a combination of electronic and physical means.
A comittment to "zero tolerance" for deaths on the tracks would soon lead to a workable solution.


Like this comment
Posted by DZ
a resident of Terman Middle School
on Jan 6, 2011 at 10:20 am

Why there is a train at middle of night? With only 30 passengers? Making so much noise and killing all these people? And those lazy riders call it is green?
This is insane!


Like this comment
Posted by MV resident
a resident of Mountain View
on Jan 6, 2011 at 10:29 am

@DZ:

Caltrain's last southbound train departs at midnight from SF on weekdays and Saturdays; it has been like this for many, many years.

Like any other public transit system, the last departure is often light on passengers, particular when it is not a Friday or Saturday night. Still, those transit agencies have committed to offering a public service even if the vast majority of folks aren't using it on a particular date.

Caltrain cannot arbitrarily cancel a train because there aren't many passengers.


Like this comment
Posted by MV resident
a resident of another community
on Jan 6, 2011 at 10:31 am

My condolences to the family, friends, and other loved ones of the victim.


Like this comment
Posted by Bill
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 6, 2011 at 10:42 am

> Caltrain cannot arbitrarily cancel a train because there aren't
> many passengers.

No .. but it can permanently cancel the run because of a lack of passengers. The impact on the community, the cost in police support, and EMS responders hardly is offset by the convenience of 30 (or maybe a few more that previously departed the train up the line).

Caltrain is a money loser .. and this is another example of why it is.


Like this comment
Posted by come on
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 6, 2011 at 10:48 am

30 passengers were on the train at that moment, but many dozens more got on and off at the many different caltrain stops between SF and Palo Alto. I've been on that 12am train from SF to Sunnyvale before. It's more than just 30, and for people who are in SF and have to get home to SJ, how do you suggest they do that?


Like this comment
Posted by Bill
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 6, 2011 at 10:53 am

> how do you suggest they do that?

Like everyone one else .. provide for your own transportation .. rather than ride on the backs of the taxpayers who fund this "black hole" of fiscal mismanagement.


Like this comment
Posted by agree
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 6, 2011 at 11:06 am

at bill,

i strongly agree, think about hsr,would it be the same thing that tax payers' money are wasted.


Like this comment
Posted by Not Again
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 6, 2011 at 11:10 am

To virginia warheit, a resident of Menlo Park, 56 minutes ago

This is a know suicide attractor that is not adequately protected, its that simple.

The drop in deaths shows that added barriers, monitoring, etc. are effective.

The continuing deaths show that the job is not finished.

It is absolutely possible to secure the entire line with a combination of electronic and physical means.

A comittment to "zero tolerance" for deaths on the tracks would soon lead to a workable solution.

Virginia, I think you are absolutely right. There are guards at Meadow and Charleston, but they are not allowed to go into the tracks, so they do what they can. We need the electronic and physical means, lights all around the tracks, no hedges blocking the view of the drivers on Alma, so they can see if someone is inside and call to report. I have asked many, many times for these two things, lights and no bushed, but Caltrain keeps ignoring the request. Every time someone dies, they add up one more light at the crossing, but nothing inside the tracks. I guess is going to take many incidents to improve a little at a time everyone dies. So sad they wait for someone to die to something about it. These has become a hot spot. Many attempts have been halt either by drivers, guards and police. They know there is a problem, but very little is done.


Like this comment
Posted by Been there...
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 6, 2011 at 11:13 am


If someone is suicidal, removing the tracks is NOT going to stop them. In other parts of the country, people jump off of bridges or highway overpasses. Perhaps you would like to remove those as well? Silly!

I understand all of the arguments about impulse and copy-cat actions, but if someone is that despondent, they have been thinking about ending their life for some time. It is almost NEVER an impulsive act.


Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 6, 2011 at 11:15 am

This is terrible news and my heart goes out to the family. That said, the idea that more barriers and protection would prevent anyone from killing themselves is just not supported by any real evidence other than anecdotal. Let's focus on the root causes rather than spending more money on what people "feel" prevents more suicides.


Like this comment
Posted by Agree with Sad
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 6, 2011 at 11:43 am

How can it be reported that he did not attend a PAUSD school before his identity has been confirmed? Even if he did not attend a PAUSD school, he lived here and I don't like the implication that this suicide is somehow less noteworthy because he may not have attended a PAUSD school. Seems like knee-jerk reporting intended to make everyone with children in the PAUSD feel better. My heart goes out to his family.


Like this comment
Posted by Chris
a resident of University South
on Jan 6, 2011 at 11:55 am

HSR will take care of the safety problem.


Like this comment
Posted by Not again
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 6, 2011 at 12:06 pm

Posted by Agree with Sad, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, 18 minutes ago

How can it be reported that he did not attend a PAUSD school before his identity has been confirmed? Even if he did not attend a PAUSD school, he lived here and I don't like the implication that this suicide is somehow less noteworthy because he may not have attended a PAUSD school. Seems like knee-jerk reporting intended to make everyone with children in the PAUSD feel better. My heart goes out to his family.

Yes, I agree too. It feels like Palo Alto Weekly is trying to protect the district by saying that it is not their fault. I do not know the reason for adding this to the article. He is a Palo alto young man, and it is all it matters. His family is going to suffer the same than the rest of the parents who lost their children, and the news is going to affect our kids the same way the other incidents did. It is as if the young person who died today was less of a person because he did not attend PAUSD schools.


Like this comment
Posted by MV resident
a resident of Mountain View
on Jan 6, 2011 at 12:56 pm

Caltrain is currently a money loser because funding from local and state government has been cut in recent years.

It's a public service. If you don't like the schedule, attend one of the public forums.

Note that there's a threshold of service that a public transit system needs to provide. Caltrain officials are quite aware that if they cut back service too much, that affects public perception of the usefulness of the service and results in decreased ridership.

"come on" is correct. There were 30 passengers aboard that train at that moment. I have been on the midnight train on a weekday and typically it leaves SF with hundreds of passengers.


Like this comment
Posted by Midnight train
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 6, 2011 at 1:23 pm

Bill and DZ,
The midnight train keeps a lot of drunk drivers off of the road.


Like this comment
Posted by High School Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 6, 2011 at 1:26 pm

I'd like to thank the PA Weekly for reporting promptly - probably as soon as they could confirm it - that the victim had not attended Gunn or Paly. That simple statement of fact in no way diminishes the immense tragedy or the pain of this young man's friends and family. What it did allow was all of our children to go to school today without the overwhelming fear that the name would be one of last year's students. It stopped painful speculation and rumors before they began. To my own teenager this morning, the details were significant. I hope readers will continue to have compassion for what our surviving teenagers have experienced. I think the PA Weekly clearly has that compassion.


Like this comment
Posted by Hank
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 6, 2011 at 3:16 pm

Palo Alto is becoming the "Golden Gate Bridge" of the south.


Like this comment
Posted by Observer
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 6, 2011 at 3:31 pm

Bob, It has been proven that reducing access to the means does reduce these negative outcomes. I also agree about tackling the root causes, but many potential incidents such as this have been prevented in the last year by track monitors. We don't hear about them because minimizing publicity is yet another means of prevention.


Like this comment
Posted by Blane
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 6, 2011 at 4:23 pm

If he did not attend PAUSD, he is considered an outsider.


Like this comment
Posted by Truth
a resident of another community
on Jan 6, 2011 at 5:09 pm

People in terrible, terrible, unbearable pain will find a way to end it. One way or another.


Like this comment
Posted by pedestrian in traffic
a resident of another community
on Jan 6, 2011 at 5:32 pm

bill,
what about if you were to provide your own roads instead of riding on the backs of the taxpayers who fund the black hole of fiscal mismanagement, oil dependency (what's patriotic about that?) and poison that is the roadway.... What about that?


Like this comment
Posted by Out of Curiosity
a resident of another community
on Jan 6, 2011 at 6:34 pm

@ Sad

You said, "Also a little disconcerting that the PAPD can claim that he lived in Palo Alto but did not attend a Palo Alto High School" when they haven't yet positively ID'd him"

PAPD wasn't even mentioned in the article. It was a Caltrain employee and the Santa Clara County Coroner's Office. What does PAPD have to do with anything?


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 6, 2011 at 8:37 pm

We should never make it easy for a would be suicide. The Golden Gate Bridge, it was announced this week, has the statistical record for the most suicides from all over the world. It is probably no coincidence that it has no suicide barrier, unlike many other famous Bridges and tourist attractions. In other countries, rail tracks are much harder for suicides to reach.

If someone is suicidal they may indeed find a method that will give them their success. But, making it harder to get to the tracks will make it harder for them. The more effort that they need the more likely they will not succeed. This means that we can prevent suicides by making the tracks more inaccessible.

Rather than improving Cal Ave, why not spend the money on lighting, fencing and other preventative measures all along the Caltrain corridor?


Like this comment
Posted by DZ
a resident of Terman Middle School
on Jan 6, 2011 at 9:31 pm

"The midnight train keeps a lot of drunk drivers off of the road."

Tell me why should I (tax payer) have to pay for those "midnight drunk drivers"? What else?


Like this comment
Posted by Bikes2work
a resident of Santa Rita (Los Altos)
on Jan 6, 2011 at 10:31 pm

DZ,

Tell me why I (tax payer) have to pay for the paving of the roads you drive on? My mountain bike works just fine on dirt roads.


Like this comment
Posted by pedestrian in traffic
a resident of another community
on Jan 6, 2011 at 10:35 pm

DZ says,
"The midnight train keeps a lot of drunk drivers off of the road."

Tell me why should I (tax payer) have to pay for those "midnight drunk drivers"? What else?

a) because you might be the one he kills you with his car
b) because he might kill a promising medical pioneer
c)because we all pay for emergency services
d) because the drunk would be driver is paying for your roads though he might not use them as much as you do
c) because we don't live isolated and we all pay for the common good things
d( because the drunk-not-driver may have payed his contribution for your education
and he might not have children so that you may reciprocate
e )because being civilized requires a low polluting means of transport
f)because some of us like trains and we do pay taxes and our taxes pay for the roads you use-let us make that reciprocal
and
because and because and because .....etc
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
You like your roads and I like my trains.I'll contribute to your roads if you contribute to my trains, otherwise no deal pal.


Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 6, 2011 at 11:18 pm

Observer,

> It has been proven that reducing access to the means does reduce
> these negative outcomes

Where and how has this been proven? Is your evidence that the number of suicedes has gone down since we added guards sitting on chairs all night at the railroad crossing? I would call this a natural reduction after a statistical blip. I would be fascinated by any statistical study that can directly and significantly correlate your cause and effect hypothesis. Just because you wish it to be true does not make it true.


Like this comment
Posted by Gunn Class of '67
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jan 7, 2011 at 12:34 am

Heart break for his suffering and that of family. Would be helpful to know if he dropped out of school feeling hopeless. We need to get a handle on this.


Like this comment
Posted by Observer
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 7, 2011 at 9:32 am

Bob,
Web Link
Web Link
Web Link

I don't have time to paste here all the many articles in support of means restriction. Like me, you can do a Bing or Google search. I don't care about winning this argument. I do care about suicide prevention - so I did a lot of research last year and drew my own conclusions based on the research, and the little known but significant numbers of incidents that have been prevented here in town by guards and intervention at the tracks.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident 33
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 7, 2011 at 10:39 am

Folks,

You are posting for something very sad. Don't post your frustrations of why there should be a train midnight? why tax payers have to put up with the expenses? on and on and on.

Pay respect to the guy and show sympathy to the family who lost a family member. This is not about money, tax, train it's about mental disorder - depression! Be bit more HUMAN! Ghosh humans are the worst kind, I firmly believe. No feelings and no sympathy what so ever. Elephants are better at respecting their dead and mourn each year while passing that place.

May the guy's soul rest in peace.


Like this comment
Posted by Seriously?
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jan 7, 2011 at 11:04 am

~ Resident 33.
THank you, thank you, THANK YOU!! My sentiments exactly. These comments have gotten so far off that I simply.. finally... decided to scroll down in hopes of finding someone with good common sense... A child, a young person... a teenager just lost his life. My deepest condolences to his family, friends, others who have lost loved ones to suicide and depression, and most importantly I pray for his soul.


Like this comment
Posted by neighbor
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 7, 2011 at 11:07 am

I agree with Resident 33 -- this blog is about the tragic death of a young man. My condolences to his family and to the Caltrain engineer.

Please lets focus on what's important here, such as offering support, not on arguing issues irrelevant to this report of loss to family and community. That can be done elsewhere.


Like this comment
Posted by wow
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 7, 2011 at 1:45 pm

There is a great divide when posting comments on tragic events such as suicides or deaths.

If you happen to know the party involved or have compassion ranking high on your list of virtues, your posts are geared towards comforting the family, expressing condolences and recalling the wonderful attributes of the deceased.

On the other hand, if you don't know the party very well or are simply reacting to the news from an analytical "how do we solve" this problem to keep it from recurring, your posts are going to focus on ideas, recommendations and debates about the various merits of possible solutions (or non-solutions) that you or others have offered.

Both forms of posts are obviously valuable. HOWEVER, the second set of posts are, and appear, heartless when interspersed among the posts from grieving friends and compassionate community members who want to support the family and victim's loved ones.

So if you are in the second set of posters -- those who are well-intentioned and ready to suggest and debate ways in which to stop these horrendous suicides, please begin a separate thread apart from the story about this tragic event.

Your posts are extremely valuable but there's no reason they should cause additional pain to grieving readers of the story simply because they are inappropriately posted to this thead.

It's about common decency and respect for the dead and if you're unsure about your post, ask yourself if you would want to read it at this time in this thread if the person who died was your son or your brother or your nephew or your friend.


Like this comment
Posted by Misha
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 7, 2011 at 2:00 pm

Thank you "Resident 33" and "wow" for your sage comments. This community needs to exercise more heart and less brain. I don't mean we should be less thinking but we could certainly use more feeling, and more compassionate feeling!


Like this comment
Posted by enough!
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 7, 2011 at 2:25 pm

I am reading some of these comments in total disbelief. Especially those of DZ and Blane (is that THE Blane?).

Trains going around killing people? Let's get something straight, the trains run on a straight line through the City, and were here before any of us. A person must actively go and seek out a train before it can cause them any harm. It does not follow people around the City trying to run them over. Grade separation is all well and good, but are you going to put the entire line above ground? All of it, from SF to San Jose? If a person is determined to kill them self, they will find a way. Period.

Why do I constantly read criticisms of the paper, the PD and Caltrain when these events occur? How are they any more responsible for what happened than you or I? Doesn't anyone in Palo Alto believe in personal responsibility? This young man made a tragic choice. If his family didn't know how he was feeling, how do you expect a public entity to stop him? Not only is personal responsibilty apparently obsolete, so is common sense.


Like this comment
Posted by relentlesscactus
a resident of another community
on Jan 7, 2011 at 2:57 pm

Seriously Resident 33, you expect to find a place of sympathy in a newspaper comments log? Every incident such as this evokes the following responses: sympathy, sarcasm, criticism, a few offensive personal criticisms, off-topic political statements sparked by the death, followed by those outraged by the lack of sympathy. You are just part of the pattern. If you want real human emotions rather than a range of falsehood, promulgated by an army of shut-ins, attend the service, don't hang out here.

--relentlesscactus


Like this comment
Posted by JT
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 7, 2011 at 3:27 pm

The Daily Post this morning quoting the victim's mother, who said he suffered from mental illness. She blamed his death on that. If you haven't seen the article, you should read it. My guess is that mental illness is probably the factor behind the other suicides as well. While I'm not against more physical barriers, I don't think they're going to completely solve the problem if the cause is mental health issues. My heart goes out to his parents. This is very sad.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 7, 2011 at 3:32 pm

I do agree that we need two threads, but when the news was first announced the victim was anonymous. Then his identity was announced but the original article was changed. This means that all postings are going on the same thread.

I think that the Weekly should enable a second thread after the identity is announced so that RIPs for the deceased can be kept separate from a debate that is already ongoing about the safety of Caltrain, etc.

I also feel that the family of the deceased are unlikely to read a thread like this, but if they set up a RIP blog somewhere then the Weekly can put a link in the article for those who want to pass on their condolences.


Like this comment
Posted by Gerald
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 7, 2011 at 3:36 pm

It is the same old thing: The train stops, and the passengers, who just want to get home, are delayed for about two hours, while the coroner shows up to establish the casue and manner of death. Yet, the cororner always establishes the same set of facts: Subject killed by train, because subject stood/sat in front of train.

Why do so many need to be so inconvenienced by the selfish few?


Like this comment
Posted by pedestrian in traffic
a resident of another community
on Jan 7, 2011 at 5:19 pm

gerald, let us hope that you know how to die without inconveniencing anybody. Please don't be responsible for any accidents- i hate being delayed by emergency services. And when you die evaporate instead of making others wait behind your hearse-how selfish. Also don't forget
how very attractive lack of empathy is. Keep at it and maybe one day you will be rich and marry a princess with her own train and a lot of king's man ready to pull a sword on the unfortunate person who happens to be on the tracks. And may your lack of compassion and
empathy never develop into feeling alienated from others.


Like this comment
Posted by Gerald
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 7, 2011 at 7:21 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Like this comment
Posted by pedestrian in traffic
a resident of another community
on Jan 8, 2011 at 8:27 am

A teenager looses his life.When can imagine the grief his family and friends go through and how it affects even people who didn't know him. And Gerald all you care about is a 2 hour delay as if it had been an animal dying on the tracks. Speak about who is selfish! It's so unattractive.


Like this comment
Posted by Friend
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 8, 2011 at 11:20 pm

I spoke to him Wednesday. He took his life very early on Thursday morning. You could at least get your facts straight.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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