Train fatalities in Davis

MICHELLE GORE / AGGIE

Victims struck by trains in close proximity to city

Recently, there have been several train fatalities and incidents in Davis along the Union Pacific Railroad tracks near Second and D streets, east of the Amtrak station platform. One of the victims was a 22-year-old UC Davis student, Krisada Ruampatarasindhu.

Piyaporn Eiamcharoen, who was Ruampatarasindhu’s friend, could only speculate on what happened since she is unsure of the exact details.

“We’re not sure how he was struck by the train,” Eiamcharoen said via email. “We were so shocked because we just met that night at Thai Canteen around dinner time before he left with his classmates for drinks. It was tragic and we cannot do anything for him. We had many questions following by. What had happened? Why was he there near the train track? What was he trying to do? Or was it perhaps anyone harmed him or robbery? His whole family flew here from Thailand and contacted us. Knowing his personality the best and believing in him, his family couldn’t believe too and that prompted us to investigate the scenes.”

Eiamcharoen, along with another one of Ruampatarasindhu’s friends, Paul Kasemsap, then investigated the scene on their own when they realized what had happened.

“We went to the accident spot where the police reported and were really surprised that such tracks are so closed to the neighborhood,” Eiamcharoen said. “It’s like you have the tracks in your backyard which is very easy to get access to and walk on the actual track. There’re only one-side fence between the track and Olive Dr. along to I80 but 2nd and the track, there is nothing. We thought he might try to walk back home in south Davis. He might try to walk back to Richard Blvd but might get lost and ended up at the train station.”

Kasemsap noted how close the tracks were from downtown, and he was shocked at its proximity.

“The night that he was struck by the train, me, Piyaporn and another friend just met him in the restaurant before the accident,” Kasemsap said. “We ended up finding that the train tracks looked surprisingly close to the neighborhood and it was short walking distance from downtown. It was like having a track in your backyard.”

They speculated on what could have happened since the fence they found by the tracks was not very sturdy.

“Another possibility that we assume is that he wanted to take the backroad by using Hickory Ln. towards Olive Dr,” Eiamcharoen said. “This route is even presented on the Google map. We checked this out but there is a locked gate on the fence across Amtrak station. It isn’t sturdy and we heard that some people can skip through the fence and use this shortcut to Olive. If this was a case, maybe he couldn’t find the way to Hickory Ln. and walked along the fence on the railway to find the connecting lane. You can get lost easily because it was dark.”

As the pair noted that the fence did not seem viable, Eiamcharoen prompted that this issue should not be overlooked.

“We hope the fence is stalled much sturdy than it is now and permanently shut the gate to Hickory Ln. to prevent anyone to use it,” Eiamcharoen said. “More important thing is that the fence is required along the city line and the track, especially to cover the downtown area where a lot of people commute day and night. The city should increase our safety surrounding the train station and the railway because they are just lined to the heart of Davis, just 50 feet away from the bars and pubs. That is the big deal. We don’t want to see more people take a wrong turn and end up at the railway again.”

Paul also wishes that the city can take preventative measures.

“We hope that the city can provide some measures to prevent people from getting close to the tracks,” Kasemsap said.

Justin Jacobs, the director of media relations for Union Pacific Railroad, elaborated on the investigative process the company takes.

“In regard to when incidents happen at specific crossings, the way those are handled is that our Union Pacific Police Department works in coordination with the local police departments,” Jacobs said. “They basically conduct investigations around what happened during those incidents. Unfortunately, at this location in Davis, we have had some incidents both recently and in the past. Our goal is to get those incidents down to zero and the way we do that is to work with local municipalities, as well as raise safety awareness all across the railroads.”

Nancy Sheehan-McCulloch, the California Operation Lifesaver state coordinator and executive director, explained how the nonprofit organization is taking steps to reduce train fatalities like this in the future. The organization is a safety education and awareness program dedicated to ending collisions, fatalities and injuries at highway-rail grade crossings and on railroad rights of way in the state of California.

“Every three hours, a person or vehicle is hit by a train,” Sheehan-McCulloch said. “The whole United States is impacted and California has many of those incidents as well. It is an ongoing challenge that we face everyday. One of the things we can do to prevent train collisions is to raise awareness. We are finding more and more that people are unaware of the law around railroad tracks, and that they need to know that railroad tracks are private property. You must always obey the law because trains have the right of way. It is more about raising awareness among the community and the public so that they understand what they need to do to be aware and alert around railroad tracks.”

 

Written by: Stella Tran — city@theaggie.org