Another death on Caltrain tracks

A man slipped underneath a lowered railroad crossing arm in San Mateo on Thursday morning and became the seventh person to die this year after being struck by a Caltrain.

At 11:40 a.m., an engineer of a northbound train reported seeing the man trying to cross the tracks near Ninth Avenue, but was unable to stop, Caltrain spokesman Jonah Weinberg said.

The man was dragged several hundred feet by the train. Weinberg said Caltrain’s top speed is typically 79 miles per hour, but the train that struck Thursday’s victim was likely going more slowly as it approached the San Mateo Station.

The victim appears to have been a patient of Central County Mental Health Center in San Mateo, according to officials close to the investigation. Apparently, at the time of the incident the victim was with his case manager, sources said.

Central County officials would not release the victim’s name. Representatives of the San Mateo County Mental Health Association, which oversees Central County, said they could not comment on patient status.

Central County is a county-run mental health facility that provides outpatient mental health services, evaluations, treatments, referrals, community education programs and crisis services.

The San Mateo County Coroner’s Office, which has yet to identify the victim, will determine whether the incident was a suicide or an accident.

Caltrainis in the middle of a three-year, $7.2 million safety project to discourage trespassing on the tracks through education, fencing projects and equipment upgrades. Last year, a record 17 people died on the tracks.

Lt. Dave Triolo, who heads the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office transit police, said one fatality is too many.

“We try to prevent this, but you can’t be everywhere all the time,” he said.

Passengers on the northbound train were off-loaded shortly after the incident and taken to the San Mateo Caltrain Station. One track re-opened at 12:15 p.m., which allowed trains to move through the area in both directions, Weinberg said. The second track was reopened about an hour later. Delays from the incident continued into the afternoon and ranged from 20 to 45 minutes.

The man’s death was Thursday’s second train fatality in the Bay Area. Around 3 a.m., 27-year-old Britta Aker was struck by a freight train at the Cedar Boulevard railroad crossing in Newark, authorities said.

tbarak@examiner.com

mrosenberg@examiner.com

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