A southbound Union Pacific freight train struck and killed a man walking on the tracks near the Walnut Avenue crossing Tuesday evening.
It was the third fatality this year in Manteca involving a train striking a pedestrian. A man was struck and killed July 26 by a northbound at the South Main Street crossing in downtown Manteca. In January, a 28-year-old man was killed a half mile to the south when he was struck by a train along Moffat Boulevard to the west of the Spreckels Avenue/Industrial Park Drive crossing. In that incident, witnesses said the man who was killed appeared to be sleeping on the tracks
The engineer controlling the train pulling in excess of 100 cars tried to stop once he saw the man but was unable to do so in time.
Nearby residents say they heard the train’s horn blow continually for about 30 seconds – something they don’t normally hear.
Fire, ambulance and police responded but they could do nothing to save the pedestrian who succumbed to the accident. A woman ran from the homes to the north of the tracks toward a police officer, crying as she approached the train. Neighbors said they thought she was the man’s wife.
A small crowd stood near the stopped train with children in hand as they watched the scene unfold discussing the number of train accidents that have occurred at that crossing in previous years.
Railroad crossings at Union Road as well as Walnut Avenue were closed until the coroner arrived on the scene with the train remaining at that location for more than two hours.
Manteca averages two pedestrian railroad deaths a year.
Last year was unusual in that both deaths did not occur between the Walnut Avenue and Spreckels Avenue/Moffat Boulevard crossings. While one was in the downtown area, the other was a teen who was trying to beat an Altamont Corridor Express commuter train across a train trestle near the gated Oakwood Shores neighborhood.
Since 2008, the majority of the deaths have been classified as suicides. Following that the next largest number involves a person who was under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In those cases they have ended up walking down or across the tracks away from crossings.
Last year Manteca Police Sgt. Lance Casqueiro was credited with pulling a suicidal man off the tracks at the Yosemite Avenue crossing literally seconds before a train would have struck him. About 15 years earlier Manteca Police were also credited with making a similar save.
There are 13 at-grade railroad crossings in Manteca including nine on the Union Pacific’s main north-south route between Austin Road and Airport Way that typically sees frequent, fast moving train traffic.
In an effort to reduce the potential for deaths, Union Pacific has installed fencing from Industrial Park Drive to Center Street. In addition, six years ago the city installed wrought iron fencing on the tracks near the skate park after youth were seen frequently cutting across the tracks to reach the skate park.
To contact Glenn Kahl, email email@example.com