REDWOOD CITY — Fredrick Opp, 50, died when he attempted to cross the tracks at the downtown Caltrain platform and was struck by a southbound train, officials said Thursday.
Opp stepped off a northbound train at Sequoia Station at 6 p.m., walked to the south edge of the platform and ducked under a lowered crossing arm when he was struck, according to Jonah Weinberg, spokesman for the rail system. Opp’s last known address was at the 800 block ofMain Street, just blocks away from the station, according to voter records.
“The guess is that he thought the gates were down because of the train he was on,” Weinberg. “Whether or not he thought, ‘Oh, this isn’t for real,’ we can only assume.”
Opp’s death is the fourth train-related fatality in Redwood City this year, and the 13th for the Caltrain corridor since January. In February, 58-year-old Bonnie Heitz died at Brewster Avenue; in April, 18-year-old Jose Alvarez died just north of Whipple Avenue; in September, 63-year-old Elias Mecina Vazquez died at the Chestnut Street crossing. All were accidents and not suicides, Weinberg said.
Officials are treating the high incidence of train-related fatalities in Redwood City as an anomaly, although Caltrain launched a new safety program, “Don’t Shortcut Life,” in 2006.
“You can have four people in a building with cancer, but that doesn’t mean the building causes cancer,” Weinberg said. “These deaths were not at the same location, and each one was eminently avoidable if someone had decided to respect the signal.”
While Redwood City officials have suggested locations where additional fencing could be added and would eventually like to elevate the train corridor through town, rail patrons need to keep their own safety in mind, Mayor Barbara Pierce said.
“People have to take some responsibility,” Pierce said. “We need to learn that it’s not worth the risk.”