Town Square

Man hit and killed by Caltrain in Palo Alto

Original post made on Nov 20, 2012

Caltrain service was back on schedule this morning after a train fatally struck a man on the tracks in Palo Alto earlier today, an agency spokeswoman said.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, November 20, 2012, 7:04 AM


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2012 at 7:32 am

This is big news if you are a Caltrain commuter. I would suggest that making the headline something like "Big Caltrain delays all morning for commuters due to fatality on tracks - commuters should find alternative means of travel".

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Posted by No kidding!
a resident of another community
on Nov 20, 2012 at 7:42 am

Thanks Resident. I agree. While it's important to get the message out about what happened, knowing the trains are messed up is a pretty important, if not the immediate important piece of this information.

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Posted by Chris Linn
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 20, 2012 at 8:07 am

I disagree. CalTrain delays are not news. That info is all over the radio this morning. The important here news is that a member of our community has died.

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Posted by Big picture
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2012 at 8:08 am

For those who rely on Caltrain to get to work, it's certainly important information that there will be significant delays to the commute.

However, Palo Alto Online is a source for news - and as news goes, the much more important (and unfortunate) story is that there was a fatality on the tracks.

There are plenty of sites dedicated to providing the latest commute and traffic update.

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Posted by anony
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Nov 20, 2012 at 8:09 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2012 at 8:30 am

Every death is sad, I agree. But it is not newsworthy normally unless it affects the public. I strongly feel that the part of this sad story which is most newsworthy that affects Caltrain passengers and possibly those who need to cross the tracks at Charleston is the traffic angle.

Unfortunately, suicides happen a lot more than is recorded in news outlets. Every death is sad for those who know the deceased. For the rest of us, it is a sad fact of life. But when it comes to busy people getting where they need to get to, traffic delays are something that needs to be reported to avoid congestion getting worse (so alternates can be arranged and perhaps leaving home earlier or later). Getting the word out as soon as possible can make a big difference to those whose commute will be affected.

It is indeed a sad story in respect of the death.

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Posted by again?
a resident of Meadow Park
on Nov 20, 2012 at 8:31 am

Why always this area?

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Posted by a sad resident
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 20, 2012 at 8:49 am

How sad that your biggest concern is the traffic. Slow down in life. Stop and smell the roses. Maybe just stop for a brief second and appreciate that you are healthy and happy enough to go to work. It's probably this high pressure world that we live in that contributed to this man's stress. The bigger picture is not the traffic.

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Posted by AlmaDriver
a resident of another community
on Nov 20, 2012 at 8:51 am

To: again? It is not just that area. There have been cases like it all along the Peninsula and South Bay. Palo Alto Online usually only reports on the most local cases. What happened to the security guards? Are there cameras there now?

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Posted by Kt
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 20, 2012 at 8:55 am

Why this area? Money, success, the pressure to be number 1, to drive a fancy car, to have your ideas matter.... While for some this doesn't matter, for others this is all they think about. But, you know, there are many other reasons why people choose to end their lives. Depression, fear, illness. People commit suicide all the time, we're in a heavily populated area. On average there is one death every nine days on the Golden Gate Bridge. Suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the country.... Homicide is the 15th. More people kill themselves than are murdered each year. We need better/more accessible/more affordable mental health services so we can try to prevent things like this from happening over and over.

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Posted by Local
a resident of Meadow Park
on Nov 20, 2012 at 8:57 am

Thank you for the article, this kind of news helps commuters like me know how late the trains will be. However, I would like to say that those people who use mass transit as a method of suicide not only cause sever mental harm for those who were witness, but also disrupts man people's lives in a negative way. They will most likely be remembered in the worst way.

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Posted by Truedy
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 20, 2012 at 8:58 am

Sad that people have become so callous that a longer commute is more meaningful than a death. Besides, all commuters should know that a death on the tracks affects traffic, or have we become stupid too?

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2012 at 8:59 am

I will say my last on this as I do have a life to get on with.

It has been said many times in this Forum that in the case of Caltrain suicides, we must not publicise too much because of glorifying the cause and risking copycats.

Therefore, playing down the cause of the suicide (if that is what it was) is the right thing to do. If you want to detail every daily death, by any means, then death notices should be your reading place to do that.

If on the other hand, you want to know the news that affects the majority of Palo Alto people, then the traffic is important.

I may know this poor individual, I may not. I am sad that a life in its prime was interrupted - however the means. Does it affect me? Probably not unless I know him. Does the traffic affect me? Unfortunately, in a case like this, it does.

ps, if a tree fell on Caltrain without hurting anyone and caused major delays, I would expect the same courtesy from PA Weekly.

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Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2012 at 9:14 am

Yes, but, there is no reason to send over 3-4 "live" news helicopters. They could just say "a delay". I really, really, really wish that suicide incidents would be or stay deemphasized.

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Posted by Anon
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Nov 20, 2012 at 9:27 am

Very sad. This incident happened about a block from our house. I left the house for a walk at 5:30AM and heard the engine from the stopped train. Given the suicide problems we've had at that intersection, I knew immediately what had happened. About five minutes later, I saw the fire engines heading down E Meadow. I can appreciate the tremendous inconvenience for commuters, but can't we just take a moment to acknowledge how sad it is that someone gave up on their life. As we approach the holidays, it's another reminder of just how important our relationships are with those we love and care about.

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Posted by iSez
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 20, 2012 at 9:51 am

iSez is a registered user.

Very tragic. I hope the person is at peace in a Heavenly place. I am sorry the person could not see the light at the end of the tunnel. I read that survivors of suicide (who don't have mental illness) regret the attempt.

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Posted by Left of Boom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2012 at 10:32 am

Left of Boom is a registered user.

When I hear helicopters hovering overhead, I can guess the cause with near certainty.

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Posted by gmdea1959
a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 20, 2012 at 11:07 am

gmdea1959 is a registered user.

of all the cal train crossings, what is it about this one Charleston and East Meadow that attracts people to want to throw themselves in front of a train. all the crossing grades are the same. if you add up all the crossing grades along the peninsula where people got struck by a train trying to commit suicide, I bet you Charleston and East Meadows
would top the list.

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Posted by cid
a resident of another community
on Nov 20, 2012 at 12:17 pm

cid is a registered user.

It is that time of year when those with "issues" start to think dark thoughts as the days grow darker and the Holiday Glitter surrounds them.
please be mindful of this and extend a hand when you can to friends in distress. You never know whose hand is in need of a squeeze or who
you actually might be helping....

Last year at almost this same time, by a few weeks, my friend from Common Ground, Don Larsen did the same unspeakable action in Palo Alto. I still regret that I did not know of his distress, and have a kinder word or some way to encourage him, somehow. I'm sure his family and friends miss him dearly.

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Posted by Ducatigirl
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 20, 2012 at 6:48 pm

Ducatigirl is a registered user.

Does anyone ever think about the poor train engineer? These guys are badly shaken when this happens, and usually need counselling after.

Suicide can be a selfish act when done this way, so publicly and violently. It points a finger from the grave that says, "You did this to me". I am sure the engineer feels tremendous guilt that he could not stop the train in time, and surely any witnesses were sickened. Think about the family member who has to identify the remains.

If a person really feels hopeless, there is cheap counselling through the county.

If a person is hopelessly ill, there should be a legal, painless, quiet way to do it without laying a guilt trip on so many people, or traumatizing them for life.

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Posted by True Blue
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 20, 2012 at 10:45 pm

True Blue is a registered user.

If someone is so depressed, ill, and desperate to commit suicide, it's a stretch to think they have the ability, foresight, and awareness to realistically consider the needs of others impacted by their action. It's important to understand that suicidal people do not enjoy the idea of dying, they are just in such extreme emotional pain they seek only to *escape from the pain*, and for a variety of reasons have lost hope that there is any escape other than death. Emotionally healthy people cannot comprehend the depth of despair and desperation that could lead one to suicide - and they should be grateful for that!

As much as a I completely agree their are many victims in a suicide, and sympathize with all of them, (including those "in control" of the suicide vehicle - e.g. train engineers, cops, vehicle drivers, doctors who prescribed reasonable medications, etc), the primary victims are those people who lost their lives because they could find no other means to end their suffering.

I know this discussion is focused on what's more important in the news - the death or the traffic impact - and I would urge all of us to remember life is more important than being late to work (isn't a public transportation delay an acceptable reason for being late?!).

When someone steps in front of a train traveling at 50 MPH, the only thing we should be thinking about is how could we have helped this person from becoming so desperate. Often there is nothing we could have done, but sometimes, there was. Please remember in our everyday dealings that we do not know what is happening inside the lives and heads of others. Practice patience, kindness, respect, and helpfulness with everyone you encounter - it costs you nothing except maybe a few seconds of time.

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Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 21, 2012 at 1:52 am

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

For CalTrain commuters looking for information, I've often used the user-driven content of and Also, CalTrain has plans to roll out a real-time information system, including station announcements, website info, and SMS pushes: Web Link

WARNING, TRAUMATIC (but I'll spare you the details):
About 12 years ago, my northbound train arrived in San Carlos and passengers reported seeing someone dead or injured on the southbound tracks. It was my stop so when I got off I went to see if I could be of assistance to the train engineers of my train who were the first responders. When I got there they were already tying tourniquets. They asked me to help direct the arriving police and medical personnel to their location. The woman survived but lost her legs. She couldn't have been sane to think her plan was a good one, and it left her in way worse situation than she started with. I've often wondered what became of her, and to this day it is a disturbing traumatic memory. None the less, if I were in a similar situation today I would still offer help as I did then. (The experience gives me a tiny window of understanding into the PTSD suffered by war veterans and victims.)

The decision to commit suicide is often a spur of the moment event, not a logically planned out act, and I think not tempered by the thoughts of how it would affect others or of other alternatives like seeking counseling. If our tracks were grade separated, it could make it much more difficult for people to access the tracks, and give more time for people to reconsider their actions. In Paris, some of the new metro lines have driverless trains which pull up to stations which have glass walls along the platform edge so that it is not possible to purposefully or accidentally fall into the tracks. The train automatically aligns its doors with doors in the glass wall.