Sunnyvale man struck, killed by train in Palo Alto

24-year-old man 'acted intentionally,' Caltrain reports

A 24-year-old man was killed at about 7:30 p.m. Monday evening (Feb. 28) when southbound Caltrain No. 284 struck him at the Palo Alto station at University Avenue, Caltrain has reported.

A "preliminary investigation indicates that the person acted intentionally," a Caltrain press release stated.

The accident happened about 7:30 p.m. when southbound Caltrain 284 struck the man at the Palo Alto station, Caltrain said.

Crime-scene tape covered the area around the Marguerite shuttle stop, an eyewitness said. The entrances to the underpass between the northbound and southbound tracks were also blocked off.

The train stopped south of the Palo Alto station with approximately 115 passengers onboard. It was cleared to leave the scene at about 8:39 p.m., Caltrain spokeswoman Christine Dunn stated in a press release.

Train No. 284 operates as a local train from San Francisco to Menlo Park. It had been scheduled to stop at the Mountain View station and the Santa Clara station, arriving in San Jose at 7:55 p.m. The train was not scheduled to stop at the Palo Alto station. Caltrain is authorized to operate at a maximum speed of 79 miles an hour.

The northbound track was re-opened for trains traveling at reduced speed at 8:25 p.m., and the track continued to serve both north- and south-bound trains as of 9:45 p.m.

A bus driver for the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority who declined to give his name spoke about the incident. He had been dispatched to the Palo Alto Caltrain station to pick up passengers who were delayed by accident, but he found fewer passengers than usual opting for the bus.

He said he didn't understand why a person would commit suicide.

"The family will be suffering. ... It makes me a little sad," he said.

Gesturing to a train that was pulling into the station, he said: "These are the people who are affected."

This is the fourth Caltrain fatality on the right of way this year. Last year there were 11 fatalities on the Caltrain right of way; of those nine were determined by the coroner to be suicides and two are pending final investigation, Dunn stated.

Last year, Caltrain installed 250 suicide prevention signs along a 10-mile stretch of the right of way between Menlo Park and Mountain View. The signs, which have a hotline number to a local crisis intervention agency, are part of national study to test the effectiveness of signs in preventing suicides on railroads. The calls are tracked to determine if the signs are an effective tool for suicide prevention.

— Palo Alto Weekly staff

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Like this comment
Posted by Follow the guidelines, please
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2011 at 9:59 am

Dear Weekly staff... just a reminder that there are careful guidelines about reporting - so that citizens get the essentials and the chance of triggering those vulnerable to contagion are reduced. I urge you to review these - they are availble in multiple locations - Web Link

This community needs your engagement in its effort to halt this contagion.

Like this comment
Posted by Bill
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2011 at 10:47 am

Maybe it's time to consider a cage (made of link fencing) that completely surrounds that track for the distance of the station platform. There would be doors that would be kept closed when the train was not stopped to pickup/discharge passengers. When the train was fully stopped, and correctly aligned with the doors, they would be opened.

Like this comment
Posted by Paly mom
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Mar 1, 2011 at 10:55 am

@Follow the Guidelines: Having reviewed the article and the guidelines, I see only one instance where the article does not follow the guidelines. Your gentle reminder to follow the guidelines is appropriate, but I know that the Weekly is "engaged" and practices (for the most part) responsible journalism. Remember, deaths on the tracks are public events; Caltrain is required by law to report them.

To the family of this young man, my heartfelt condolences.

Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 1, 2011 at 11:11 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Bill, you are right.

Like this comment
Posted by Follow the guidelines, please
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2011 at 11:39 am

Dear Paly Mom... how the media reports on these public events is critical - especially in the immediate aftermath. I am not overstating the case. The Weekly has responded over this difficult time period but today's coverage departs in a number of ways from recent reporting and from the guidelines - possibly due to a new writer or new editor? The very real risk of not asking them to review (and incorporate) the guidelines is too great.

I believe "The Weekly" is an amazing member of this community - and in this effort they have served as a model for responsible coverage (and non-coverage). I am asking for their continued help - and I know we can count on their response.

Like this comment
Posted by Bill Johnson
publisher of the Palo Alto Weekly
on Mar 1, 2011 at 11:49 am

Bill Johnson is a registered user.

I want to assure readers that the Weekly's staff is very familiar with the best practices and guidelines for coverage of suicides and reviews them regularly. Our coverage always strives to adhere to them, as does our editing of Town Square.

Like this comment
Posted by Stop contagion
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 1, 2011 at 12:54 pm

I agree with the first post. There is not need to put pictures. This reminds me of the first incident on May 5th, 2009, where the Palo Alto Weekly put pictures of the young man's body cover with a carp. I still have it in my mind. Please delete the pictures. I can also see a picture that shows the body in the tracks cover with a carp. It is a little harder to see, but I can still see it. So just like the first person did, In the name of all those people who are struggling with mental issues or are suffering for depression, I am kindly asking you to remove the pictures. Our kids could be also affected by it. The picture kind of shows to me the end of problems, it shows calmness and peace.

Like this comment
Posted by Stop contagion
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 1, 2011 at 1:01 pm

Also, we do not need to know the details. Reporting them, does not help anybody, and to the contrary it might make things worst to Palo Alto, a city that continues to mourn the lose of residents to suicide. Perhaps you are following the guidelines, but you can also be a little more discrete, and by doing this you will not only making your newspaper look good, but you will also be saving a soul that at this moment might be thinking in taking his/her live. Hope you listen to our request. We do not want to give you hard time, just save a soul.

Like this comment
Posted by Agree
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2011 at 1:44 pm

Yes, ditch the photo of the dead body. If people want such gore, they can watch any crime show on TV (they have gotten out of hand on gore). To those of us who just want to read the news, a dreadful photo is not necessary.

Plus, have a heart! There are relatives and parents who might see it.

Like this comment
Posted by YIMBY
a resident of University South
on Mar 1, 2011 at 2:04 pm

YIMBY is a registered user.

This tragic event is important in that it shows just how difficult it is to prevent these 'intentional acts' - if someone wants to step in front of an oncoming train - it can not be prevented.
Regarding the enclosed fence - much more advanced equipment is used in the Japanese subways - if you've take 'air trains' at airports (not SFO's, though) they have glass doors that open when the train arrives. But metros and people-movers are very different than commuter rail, esp. a commuter rail like ours that is still stuck in the mid-20th century in terms of technology.

Like this comment
Posted by train station security
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 1, 2011 at 2:48 pm

I am sure we will get better security at the train stations, as well as along the tracks, when HSR comes through. Until then, no one wants to pay for something that expensive that will just be replaced in a few years.

Like this comment
Posted by Thanks
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 1, 2011 at 3:53 pm

Thank you for listening to your readers, and ditching the picture. I know that by doing this you did more than follow your guidelines. Thanks.

Like this comment
Posted by Track Watch
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 1, 2011 at 4:11 pm

Well at least we still have some volunteers at the Track Watch. I am very thankful to the people who keep supporting and founding guards, and to Hope Palo Alto for keeping the schedule. We might not prevent all the suicides, but I just could not imagine, how many suicides could had happened at the tracks, if no guards or volunteers were there. Thanks All for supporting the cause. I am from another country, and over there they have guards at each station, they do it to prevent robberies, but it ends preventing suicide at the tracks. Of course they happened but not as often. May the families of the ones who lost their loved ones find peace and resignation.

Like this comment
Posted by ChrisC
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 1, 2011 at 4:54 pm

Regarding the suggestions to add barriers of some type at the stations--I as just in Paris and saw this type of thing at the stations serviced by operatorless trains. However, I wonder at the efficacy of that here, because a track can be accessed at points other than at stations. Anybody interested in committing suicide has unprotected tracks the length of the Peninsula.

Like this comment
Posted by What a waiste of money
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 1, 2011 at 5:46 pm

Did someone said, "Few year?" It does not make sense then, that they are doing construction and are spending all that money at the tracks when they are planing to stay only few years. They claim to be out of funds or something like that, and I am sure that the work they are doing at the tracks is costing them a lot. I might be wrong but it is money down the drain. I could be spent on guards, or on just cutting the bushes, and putting higher fences, especially on the north side of California station, they are ridiculously low.

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Park neighbor
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 1, 2011 at 8:10 pm

I am trying to understand what is objectionable about a photo of police standing around. There is no body in the photo...

Like this comment
Posted by Stop the Contagion
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 1, 2011 at 9:19 pm

OH, I guess you did not see the article when there were two pictures. At our request they already removed the one that show the body laying down in the middle of the tracks covered with a white tarp. That is the reason why you do not understand. We already thanked them for doing it. Thanks for asking though.

Like this comment
Posted by Bill
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2011 at 9:45 pm

> Anybody interested in committing suicide has unprotected tracks
> the length of the Peninsula.

That's true. But the attraction of committing suicide at the station, possibly being able to force others to witness the event, will be diminished. This fellow was from Sunnyvale. He could have chosen anywhere along the tracks to step in front of a train. But he chose a heavily people station. Why? The barriers would reduce the attraction, somewhat.

Barriers would also reduce the possibility of accidents. The idea of operator-less trains is very attractive. If the barriers help to make things safer, with or without operators, so much the better.

Like this comment
Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 2, 2011 at 12:37 am

Not to be insensitive, but this is what I predicted some time ago. You can put guards, lights, fences, etc. at a location such as Meadow Drive, but if someone is intent on ending it all they'll go where the guards, lights and fences aren't.

Like this comment
Posted by Daily Post got it right
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 8, 2011 at 9:03 am

Media guidelines are critical to stopping this. The Daily Post followed them to a 42, Police blotter.

Zero photos. Report the basic facts. Everything else - quotes, pondering... - is not only unnecessary, it's known to be harmful.


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