Caltrain fatality in Mountain View

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Monday, October 13, 2008
By Yokota Fritz

Important note: When the gates are down, the lights are flashing, the bells are ringing and the train horn is blasting it is not safe to cross the tracks.

Witness describes the fatality If you are ever tempted to race the train across the tracks, think about the family of the young woman who had to identify her body at the Santa Clara coroner's office this evening. Think about your family and friends and how they'll react to your needless death. It's better to arrive home late but alive than to never arrive home at all.

At about 5:50 PM Monday evening, southbound train #270 was pulling into the Mountain View Caltrain station at Castro Street when a woman tried to beat the train across the tracks. She lost and was struck and killed instantly. Workers removed her remains at about 7:45 PM, after which the southbound tracks re-opened for service. Northbound trains began running again after about an hour. Southbound trains were delayed up to two hours.

Photo by Richard Masoner: A witness describes the woman who ran across the tracks to the Caltrain Transit Police. Dozens of commuters witnessed the collision during the evening commute in Mountain View, California.

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My biggest fear when I use to ride CalTrain was not getting hit or being in an accident, it was seeing someone use poor judgment and getting hit. In addition to the family of the victim, we need to consider the engineer, the emergency folks, and those in the station at the time of the accident. Geez.
At 5:50 PM, Mountain View is very crowded -- there were potentially hundreds of witnesses.
I was waiting for the North Bound train and saw her get hit. I will
never forget that image.
I pushed up a post I had written before this accident that looks at the Leibowitz Effect - the trick your mind plays on you to make you think that large objects are moving more slowly than they actually are.

Condolences to the family and friends. Horrific situation. I'd be interested to see a bunch more stats on these types of incidents. And look at emergency, simple safety measures like the warning that appear on the convex driver-side mirrors of cars - an 'Objects are closer than they appear'-type warning at pedestrian rail crossings.
was she trying to catch the northbound train and got hit by the southbound?
Holy. Thunder.

So... you mean you don't get a "Game Over - play again?" option?
Joe, I've witnessed something similar (neighbor got hit by a train) and you're right, the image never goes away. It's horrific.

Thanks for your note, Peter. Still, at the Mountain View Station it's difficult to imagine not knowing how close the train is.

Eric -- that's my understanding from all of the 1st hand accounts on Twitter but I could be wrong.

Sue -- yeah.
Caltrain should seriously consider putting in an underpass at Mountain View, like they do at all other major stops and even smaller stops like San Antonio. Actually, they need to put in 2 at MV.
I saw that woman get hit too. I don't think she knew what was going on. She wasn't running or walking fast. She was just walking really slow. I only saw her last two steps, but she seemed to me to be totally oblivious to the train or the crossing gates. It was if the crossing gate went down after she started walking across and the train timed her out. I also thought the train was going faster than usual. I wonder if she was on the phone or listening with earphones....
She was identified today as a 51 year old woman, which isn't that old. Perhaps she was "out of it" -- drugs, alcohol, or mental impairment of some kind?
Could have been a suicide.
I saw the entire thing happened and I won't forget it. My thoughts shared here:
@jesse, thanks for the note.
She was my sister. She lived on the streets for many years, a victim of schizophrenia, but was for these last three years, finally, finally, conserved and in a board and care. The mental health care system was prevented by our current laws from intervening, no matter how we petitioned, until too late in her life. The disease had taken its toll, had taken her life from her. She did not walk across those tracks by accident. It was deliberate.

Would those of you who were there that night and saw what happened please get in touch with me?
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