Palo Alto teen killed on tracks Tuesday

Early morning fatality involved day's last southbound train

A 16-year-old Palo Alto male died on the train tracks early Tuesday morning, Caltrain spokeswoman Christine Dunn has confirmed.

He was struck by the last southbound train just south of the Charleston Road crossing at about 1 a.m., Dunn said.

The Santa Clara County Coroner's Office has identified him as Cameron Lee of Palo Alto.

School district Superintendent Max McGee confirmed Tuesday morning that the teenager was a student at Gunn High School.

McGee sent an email alerting parents at about 8:30 a.m. Tuesday that "a junior from Gunn High School had just lost their life to suicide."

"We have informed all of our schools and our entire staff will be watching for any signs of students who may need support and care following this tragedy," he wrote. "Our counselors are prepared to work with any student or family at a moment's notice, and we ask that you inform your school's principal or psychologist if you believe any child you know is at risk."

Counseling support from the school district's Project Safety Net partners -- nonprofit Adolescent Counseling Services, grief counseling organization Kara and Stanford University Medical Center's Dr. Shashank Joshi -- will be provided at Gunn today, McGee said. The counseling services will also be provided at the schools of the young man's siblings, McGee said.

Palo Alto High School Principal Kim Diorio also sent a message to parents and students, offering on-campus support and resources. Members of Paly's Crisis Response Team were available to meet with individual or groups of students Tuesday as well as in the coming weeks, she said.

At Paly's PTSA general meeting this Thursday at 8:30 a.m., Diorio, the school climate TOSA (Teacher on Special Assignment) and members of the Crisis Response Team will provide information about suicide and mental illness in adolescents, including risk factors and warning signs of suicide, and will answer attendees' questions.

"Students please know we love you and that we are here for you," Diorio wrote. "This is an important time for everyone in our school community to support and look out for one another. If you are concerned about a friend, please be sure to tell a trusted adult. You matter."

Mayor Nancy Shepherd also issued a joint statement with McGee Tuesday evening.

"Our community is shaken at the sad news about this young man's death. We extend our thoughts and prayers to his friends and family," Shepherd said. "I know that our strength comes from the commitment that we all have to support our youth, and we are deepening our partnerships with schools, parents, students, mental health experts, and others.

"Our work to ensure resources, support, and conversations about mental health remains a constant, and we will continue to work through these difficult times as we draw strength from our collective community spirit."

Shepherd said the city has immediately extended the hours for track guards at crossings along the Caltrain right-of-way from the first train in the morning at approximately 5 a.m. to the last train in the evening at approximately 1:15 a.m. The extended hours will include rail crossings at Churchill Avenue, Charleston Road and East Meadow Drive.

Caltrain launched a "There is help" signage program and website with resources for individuals and those seeking to learn more about mental illness and suicide last month. The website can be found here.

Any person who is feeling depressed, troubled or suicidal can call 1-800-784-2433 to speak with a crisis counselor. People in Santa Clara County can also call 1-855-278-4204.

A list of school and community resources are also available on the school district's Health Services page and the Counseling Services page.

A list of local mental health resources is also available here.

Read more: How to help those in crisis

Correction: The location of the fatality was initially reported incorrectly due to inaccurate information from Caltrain. The location was south of Charleston Road.

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29 people like this
Posted by Anna
a resident of Gunn High School
on Nov 4, 2014 at 9:23 am

I'm just floored by how close this happened to home. A student in my class this morning broke down in tears when we heard the news about the suicide. To be honest, I felt like crying myself, even though I didn't personally know the boy. I wish I had words of encouragement to give to everyone affected by this, but I don't think anything I could say would have any effect whatsoever.

29 people like this
Posted by Town Square Moderator
online staff of Palo Alto Online
on Nov 4, 2014 at 10:09 am

Town Square Moderator is a registered user.

Dear Palo Alto community -

In light of the fact that family and friends of this teenager are grieving the loss of their loved one at this time, please limit your comments on this thread to providing support rather than discussing issues that can be addressed more appropriately on another thread or at least after the initial shock has passed. Thank you for your consideration.

9 people like this
Posted by dolf
a resident of Gunn High School
on Nov 4, 2014 at 10:22 am

dolf is a registered user.

I am so incredibly sorry to hear that tragedy has struck the Gunn community once again. My condolences to the family and to all Gunn students affected. [Portion removed.]

9 people like this
Posted by JLS mom of 2
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Nov 4, 2014 at 10:57 am

JLS mom of 2 is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

7 people like this
Posted by muttiallen
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 4, 2014 at 11:29 am

muttiallen is a registered user.

This makes me so sad. When [portion removed] died on the tracks a couple of years ago his mother had the courage to say that he died of mental illness, just as others die of cancer. This is a disease and I hope we all can help erase the stigma. My sympathies and prayers go out to his family and friends.

11 people like this
Posted by PA mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 4, 2014 at 11:31 am

PA mom is a registered user.

I wish the family and friends of the boy much peace and comfort.

11 people like this
Posted by resident3
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 4, 2014 at 11:44 am

resident3 is a registered user.

Incredibly sad

Thinking of the family and friends in grief, as many of us in the community feel upon hearing this.

34 people like this
Posted by True
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 4, 2014 at 12:01 pm

True is a registered user.

We just received a letter from the Paly principal explaining that suicide is due to mental illness and depression [portion removed.] Adults should not think that suicidals are the obvious offbeat students who might commit suicide. Teenagers can be prone to impulsive behavior. This boy was likeable and had friends. Suicide is not always due to mental illness - environment can lead to suicide. Our superintendent and school board need to work on student stress.

I didn't know Cameron, but he looked happy. And my day has been filled with grief, even not knowing him.

10 people like this
Posted by Rose A
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Nov 4, 2014 at 12:54 pm

Rose A is a registered user.

My condolences to the family, friends, and classmates of Cameron Lee. I'm very sad for your less. I did not know Cameron, nor did I attend Gunn High School, but I'm sad to learn of his death. Peace be with you.

11 people like this
Posted by Quantum Bread
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Nov 4, 2014 at 2:08 pm

Quantum Bread is a registered user.

After hearing this sad news after picking up my Jr. at Gunn, it is clear
Cameron was loved a lot by many. Condolences to the family, close friends,
classmates, Mr. J and entire support staff at Gunn. "Love never ends." He
is remembered.

27 people like this
Posted by Mary & Vic Ojakian
a resident of University South
on Nov 4, 2014 at 3:02 pm

Mary & Vic Ojakian is a registered user.

Suicide most often (90% of the time) occurs as the result of extreme mental pain termed “psych ache”. Usually the mental health condition causing this state is severe and treatable depression. This pain or depression is not always outwardly recognizable as such, especially in youth who often express depression through anger or some emotion other than sadness. It is true that youth are more impulsive as the part of the brain involved in impulse control is not fully developed. So impulsivity often plays into the suicide of a young person. Also, when in great pain or when depressed ones ability to find solutions to a feeling of hopelessness can be very limited. If anyone is ever concerned that a friend may be thinking of suicide, the best thing to do is ask them and, if they say they are, then get them to help. If in doubt call the Crisis and Suicide Hotline in Santa Clara County at 1-855-278-4204. For online support go to

11 people like this
Posted by Gunnparent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Nov 4, 2014 at 3:38 pm

Gunnparent is a registered user.

[Post removed; please defer comments on broader issues of concern to a later time. The community should focus on grieving the loss of this child and supporting the family.]

16 people like this
Posted by JLS mom of 2
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Nov 4, 2014 at 4:19 pm

JLS mom of 2 is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

3 people like this
Posted by High school parents
a resident of another community
on Nov 4, 2014 at 6:00 pm

High school parents is a registered user.

It is a tragedy for both school and family. I cried even I don't know him. [Portion removed.] Some kids may be active and popular, but very sensitive deep insider. I think the best parents or educators can do is to be friend to our kid, gain the trust, share the up and downs.

13 people like this
Posted by kludged
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 4, 2014 at 6:45 pm

kludged is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

4 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 4, 2014 at 7:40 pm

Nayeli is a registered user.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the family.

6 people like this
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 4, 2014 at 8:21 pm

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

my thoughts are with the Gunn community tonight

mark weiss
class of 1982

9 people like this
Posted by Retired Teacher
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 4, 2014 at 8:27 pm

Retired Teacher is a registered user.

I applaud the Weekly's effort to limit comments to sympathy for the family and friends of Cameron Lee. My sympathy and prayers go out to all concerned.

On the other hand, I question why the Weekly would allow the comments on student stress, newspaper coverage, and the absurd insinuation from kludged that these comments themselves make suicide victims into "heroes" and thus encourage more suicides!

We need to encourage every person who is depressed or feeling suicidal to seek help. At the same time, we need to realize that the causes of suicide are not at all well-understood!

Please, all who post here, approach this topic with humility and sensitivity. It is caring and compassion, not blame and absurd assertions that will help abate these traffic happenings.

Like this comment
Posted by Retired Teacher
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 4, 2014 at 8:30 pm

Retired Teacher is a registered user.

I meant "tragic" happenings.

8 people like this
Posted by Julie Lythcott-Haims
a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 5, 2014 at 3:56 pm

Julie Lythcott-Haims is a registered user.

My heart is breaking, not only for Cameron's parents, siblings, family, friends, teammates, and teachers, but because this seems to be a case where there were no warning signs which shakes us all out of the complacency that this kind of thing only happens to "those" people. A Gunn student posted a simple yet powerful video expressing her thoughts on what we can do to make our community more hospitable for our teenagers. I encourage you to watch it.

Web Link

14 people like this
Posted by Big
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 5, 2014 at 8:03 pm

Big is a registered user.

Firstly my heart goes out to the family.

[Portion removed.] I think we have to look at the attitude of all the adults in this community. It is we who are to blame putting the pressure on the kids to succeed. [Portion removed.]

These suicides have become the defining events of our childrens community. While we parents carry on succeeding.

We have to look to our own culture. No amount of school counselling will change the parents attitudes.

25 people like this
Posted by iSez
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 6, 2014 at 1:09 am

iSez is a registered user.

[Portion removed.] Academic stress. Always sleep-deprived. Clearly, a change is needed in PAUSD. I'm tired of hearing community college is okay, grades of B are okay, and AP classes are unnecessary. At other schools in the nation, APs are less rigorous, grades of As aren't rare. There are ways to teach students so they learn but are not tortured. Some teachers in PAUSD get it; some don't. They all need to get it. Reform now.

Like this comment
Posted by Brendan
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 9, 2014 at 1:17 pm

Brendan is a registered user.

Very sad! My condolences to the Lee family and friends during this very trying time.

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

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