Redwood City teen found dead on tracks

A local teenager with a history of running away from home was found dead on the Caltrain tracks just north of Whipple Avenue on Monday night.

The victim was identified as 17-year-old Jose Luis Flores by San Mateo County Coroner Robert Foucrault. Flores is the first to die on the rail corridor in 2008.

There were eight deaths — including six suicides and two accidental deaths — on Caltrain tracks in 2007, SamTrans spokesman Jonah Weinberg said.

The San Mateo County Transit District first became aware of Flores’ death approximately 8:15 p.m. Monday night when a train conductor noticed what he thought might be human remains on the tracks, Weinberg said.

“Upon examination, it looked like he might have been hit by a train that went through there at 7:25 p.m.,” Weinberg said. Three other trains passed through the area between the time Flores was most likely struck and the discovery of his body, he said.

The tracks were closed in both directions until 10:30 p.m. to allow coroner’s officials and transit police to collect Flores’ remains and gather evidence, Weinberg said. The cause of death is under investigation.

Family members last saw Flores at their Rolison Road home at approximately 6:20 p.m. Monday, said his cousin, Monica Ibarra.

“He was having problems, since his brother [Ignacio] left to Iraq for the war.” Ibarra said, “Jose has been worried.”

Flores’ disappearance Monday evening was not his first. The teen was reported missing July 23, 2007, and was found safe four days later, on July 27, according to reports from the Redwood City Police Department.

In a prior disappearance — precipitated by Ignacio’s deployment to Iraq, family members said — Flores was later found at Moffett Field in San Jose. He hadalso threatened to kill himself in the past, said Redwood City Sgt. Steve Blanc.

At the time, Blanc told media outlets that Flores had been diagnosed as psychotic, was not taking his medication and might have been using illegal drugs to self-medicate.

Ibarra described Flores as “just like any other teenager,” and said her family was not ready to talk about the death.

Little is known about Flores’ school history. He was a special-education student at Kennedy Middle School in Redwood City, and he attended Menlo-Atherton High School for a time, said Pat Gemma, superintendent in the Sequoia High School District. However, district officials did not know which school he was attending at the time of his death.

Flores’ body was found not far from where another teen, 19-year-old Jose Alvarez, of Hayward, was killed while crossing the Caltrain tracks on April 6, 2006.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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