Every evening Savannah Espinoza goes down to the Union Pacific Railroad tracks where they cross Yosemite Avenue in downtown Manteca.
She’ll sit quietly, sometimes until 4 in the morning.
The high school student is not alone. With her are several friends of Anthony Sage Archuletta. They are there to keep her safe while Espinoza mourns her loss.
Her beloved Tony was mortally injured before her eyes Friday evening. The couple was among a group of friends walking down the south side of Yosemite Avenue trying to beat a westbound freight train after the crossing arms had dropped. Four of the group made it across with 20 feet to spare. Espinoza’s 19-year-old boyfriend didn’t.
Archuletta was thrown from the front side of the train.
“He was looking at us, walking away and smiling as he was hit by the train,” she said.
It is a memory she will never forget.
“We were all just walking across the tracks. If he had been just two inches away, he would never have been hit by something that hung off the engine,” she added.
As Espinoza was standing near the accident scene Tuesday afternoon, a freight train rumbled by. Espinosa appeared to freeze and clutched a wooden cross between her fingers that had been a gift from her father. She just stared at the rail cars as they moved in a southerly direction through the downtown.
The group was heading to a friend’s house to return some clothing when the accident occurred.
Archuletta, nicknamed “Looney,” was a happy go lucky guy.
Espinoza said they had been dating since Dec. 27.
She said Archuletta planned to one day have his own auto repair shop as working on cars seemed to be second nature for him.
Archuletta was the “life of the party” wherever he went. He was very close to his grandmother and would clean her house as well as go with church to her on Sundays.
As Espinoza keeps watch over the makeshift memorial for her lost boyfriend, a freight train will occasionally rumble by extinguishing the flames in some 60 candles left nearby. Espinoza and Archuletta’s other friends— sometimes as many as seven — dutifully relight the candles each time a train passes.
On the north side Yosemite Avenue sidewalk she scrawled a note that read, “I love you ‘Looney’ and I always will. You have my heart and I have yours! Signed, ‘Always and Forever, Savannah.’”
A candlelight vigil took place near the railroad crossing Saturday night some 24 hours after Archuletta died. It was attended by some 75 of his friends from as far away as Modesto. A memorial was set up on a light standard in his memory. A number of black permanent marker messages have been left on the pole telling of his life and what he meant to them.
Mathew Carrillo placed a stuffed owl near the many candles circling the pole on the sidewalk. Carrillo said he was remembering Tony as a friend “who always had my back.” Mathew’s older brother, Casey, left a stuffed bear at the memorial as well, saying that his friend Tony reminded him of a real, live bear.
Archuletta’s friends are planning a fundraiser car wash at the 7-Eleven store on West Yosemite Avenue near Union Road at 2’o’clock this afternoon in an effort to help the family raise funds for their friend’s funeral. They are also hoping to open a GoFundMe.com account in an effort to raise the needed funds.