Freight train traffic through Manteca has taken another life.
A westbound Union Pacific freight train was unable to stop when a young woman said to be about 20 years old walked on the tracks and into the train of mostly boxcars Wednesday at about 5:30 p.m.
Witnesses said the woman took off her stockings and walked directly toward the oncoming diesel engine pulling 143 cars on the tracks. She was killed when she was struck in the stretch of tracks facing the Manteca Industrial Park to the south. The engineer wasn’t able to halt the train until it neared the western edge of the downtown near Sycamore Avenue by Library Park.
The woman was said to be of apparent Caucasian descent with dark hair.
Emergency vehicles racing to the scene found it difficult to get to the south side of the train because of the limited access. The woman was located near the mid-point of the rail cars where the fire, police and ambulance were hampered by the narrow railroad right-of-way.
A number of street railroad crossing were blocked by the stopped train gates near the end of the afternoon commute. Not realizing why the train was stopped, many motorists backed up in traffic thinking the stopped train blockage would be only temporary.
On the south side of Main Street, just beyond the downed crossing arms there was one man who had recently returned from 10 years in Nevada who decided to turn traffic around as they approached the blocked roadway. Ken Douglas was worried about motorists as they drove through the signal on Wetmore and Main streets, pausing at the sight of the one-man traffic control. Someone later gave him a flashlight
Manteca Police Officer Stephen Beermann voiced appreciation for Douglass’ efforts noting that the department was spread pretty thin with the train incident and the traffic congestion at the crossings. While the train had come to a halt just south of Yosemite Avenue, the crossing arms at Spreckels, Yosemite, and Center Street were also down. Some vehicles were driving around the stopped train’s last car at Spreckels.
There was concern that if that continued to occur and the train started to move, some vehicles could be caught on the road in the path of the freight.
As of 7:30 p.m. the train had not moved and it was expected to remain in place for at least another two hours.