Spike in Caltrain deaths this year confusing

The number of deaths this year on the Caltrain tracks has officials scratching their heads about why the tally has already reached the total from 2007.

The most recent death in Palo Alto, the eighth this year, comes after experiencing a five-year low last year.

The fatalities this year have occurred in different cities, times of day and days of the week. Five have been suicides, with one accident and two undetermined deaths this year.

“We wish that we did” have theories onwhy the rate of deaths is up this year, Caltrain spokeswoman Christine Dunn said.

“We have never been able to identify a pattern and we don’t understand why it’s higher this year than it was in other years, and we also don’t understand when it’s lower, why it’s lower,” Dunn said.

On Monday, a northbound Caltrain was traveling at its normal rate of speed when its engineer “thought he felt something,” Dunn said. The engineer stopped the train, exited and looked around but could not find anything, so he continued operating the train’s route, she said.

After leaving the scene, the engineer called the agency’s transit police, who found the body of 26-year-old Ying Qin, of Newark, just south of the rarely used Stanford station, Dunn said.

Because there is no pattern in the deaths, Caltrain has not launched any new safety programs this year in light of the spike in deaths, she said. Instead, the agency has continued its safety presentations, fencing programs and other community outreach efforts established in previous years.

mrosenberg@sfexaminer.com

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