Update: 15-year old bike rider killed in Metrolink collision; first SoCal bike death in nearly a month

We almost made it.

It’s been exactly 26 days since the last bicycling fatality anywhere in Southern California. Lately I’ve kept my fingers crossed the we could make it to a full four weeks; a much needed respite in what has been a very bad year for SoCal cyclists.

Sadly, we didn’t make it.

And neither did a young Riverside man.

News is just breaking that a teenage boy was killed in a collision with a Metrolink train in Riverside earlier this evening; KCBS-2 originally identified him as 15 years old, but later removed that from their story.

According to Murrieta Patch, the young man, who has not been publicly identified, was crossing the tracks at Madison Street near Indiana Avenue at 5:58 pm Thursday when he was struck by a train headed from Orange County to San Bernardino.

A satellite photo shows standard drop-bar crossing arms on both sides of the tracks.

No word on which direction he was riding, or how he ended up on the tracks as the train was coming through. However, a division chief for the Riverside Fire Department speculated that there may have been a second train coming in the opposite direction after the first train had passed.

There are few things easier to avoid than a wreck with a train. Unlike cars, they can’t deviate from a set track; all you have to do is stop when the barricades come down, and wait until they go back up before crossing the tracks — regardless of how safe it may seem at the time.

This is the 68th bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the 10th in Riverside County. That compares with 62 and 11, respectively, this time last year.

He is also the sixth Southern California bicyclist to be killed by a train this year, compared to just two in all of last year, and four in 2011.

My deepest sympathy and prayers for the victim and all his family and friends; this news will be devastating for whatever school he may have attended.

Thanks to Danny Gamboa for the heads-up.

Update: A report from KNBC-4 confirms that the victim was 15-years old, and that witnesses said he waited for one train to pass, then was hit by second train coming from the opposite direction when he attempted to cross the tracks. 

Update 2: According to the Press-Enterprise, the victim was riding south on the sidewalk on the west side of Madison Street when he stopped for the first train. 

A witness who recognized the boy waved at him, and watched the wreck unfold. 

“We saw him riding his bike, and we just waved at him,” said Soto, who was heading to a friend’s home in the Casa Blanca neighborhood. “He stopped right there at the (crossing) light” when an eastbound freight train passed by.

“It passed by and 30 seconds later we’re still just waiting there for it (the crossing gate) to lift up. I see a train coming and oh, it’s another train,” Soto said. “I could see the kid go straight and I guess he didn’t look to his left and he got hit. It was a loud pop. At first … I didn’t believe it.”

The witness, who said he was scarred for life by what he’d seen, went on to say that the victim may have been fooled when the warning gate started to lift before coming back down again. 

“I thought something was wrong with it,” he said, “so I guess he (the boy on the bicycle) saw that with the corner of his eye and went straight. I guess now he’s in heaven.”

Update 3: The San Bernardino Sun identifies the victim as Serafin Gonzalez of Riverside.

Update 4: According to the Press-Enterprise, Gonzalez was just out for a quick ride when he was killed; he was dragged over 170 feet by the force of the impact.

He was described by his teachers as an extremely good young man without a mean bone in his body. 

And in an indication of a serious problem, the paper reports that Gonzalez was the fourth person in Riverside to be struck and killed by a second train after waiting for the first train to pass in the last four years.

Update 5: A vigil was held in Gonzalez’s memory Friday night. In a tragic irony, he lived on Railroad Avenue, paralleling the tracks he died on. 

11 comments

  1. Jerry says:

    I am so sorry.. I ride and have found that there are so many riders who are not willing to take even normal precautions. It is sad. A train seems easy to see coming or HEAR. Headphones on riders are so dangerous. Riding without lights. Or paying attention. We are cyclists and we are at the mercy of cars, buses, trucks and so much else.. We need to be aware. We need to teach other riders. We need to make other riders responsible to make us all safe. It is sad when any one of us are injured.. and my heart goes out to the family and anyone affected.

  2. Every investigated death of cyclists hit by trains in UK has compelling evidence that they were using earphones.

    We have an interesting case at present of a young woman, captured on CCTV with a VERY near miss with a 100mph train – teh Police are fortunately able to interview her and find out what the *** was going on in her head to cycle past the lowered barrier and try to cross the tracks.

  3. Karl says:

    The tracks in question are built however recently with an archaic extravagance and a obviously deadly inadequacy in that there is a spare track not needed by the productivity demands while at the same time very little if any real estate and control devoted to passing even in the same direction. Instead we learn that the cheapskates use a single status indicator to inform crossing traffic of a train ignoring the rather obvious fact that an honor system depends on fully informed consent of the governed if by littlemore then information if not actual unbypassable barrier. The deceased was simply not informed that two trains where in the time space he reasonably given the education available believed available. Rather unbelievably the fact that the normally slowest crosser is not needing a in between the facing traffic trains stop as it is assumed that if either train is coming anytime soon they will be told to stop and wait an obscene amount of time has this victim seeing a clear line of site for additional milliseconds once the closest track was clear- a sight he should not of and did not need to be missled by.

    Rather as an emergency this situation MUST be remedied. Ample space between the tracks exists even if only for visual warnings to spare the hasty or whatever among us that the blind spot track is expecting traffic and these signals not being there have almost certainly killed before. How many more must die before we install them?

  4. Karl says:

    Even if only 2d not 3d signage is installed it needs to indicate the direction of travel of the train we are asked to give the right of way to. IT is not like we are all blind reflexive robots, nor that we don’t entertain making yielding be the meaning of stopsigns for us formally.

    This child died because people who matter more use vehicles that can’t pass the signal without damaging it as if what mattered is the survival of only that wood, or at least the prosecution of those who damage it, with those who are expendable not mattering enough to update it with something as fancy as a light or otherwise changable indicator.

    One way of solving this problem would be to make any car damaging barrier illegal. If driver’s could ignore the message without damaging there car then it would be improved. As long as pedestrian’s and other expendible people are the only one’s required to be deviantly authoriatian nothing will change.

    The challenge before this family is to forgive there son enough to hold society accountable for slaughtering so many like there own without any real justification. I hope he has such a family- one that has the courage to blame the adults, and not just shed tear’s grateful for this lesson and ready to lobby our schools to share it as if they have learned nothing real from it. We must be required to pay them more then we an afford or this fatal business of blaming victim’s for not being omniscient will march on as usual. Such accidents are infinite, but most are predictable and preventable though not yet addressed for other then car abuser’s. Tell us what direction the train is going AND how many deep and in a row etc. we are asked to await. If the signal’s are not so fixed then ignoring them should be punishable by no less then ten years in prison and a million dollar reward for information leading to the conviction of anyone crossing tracks without permission, ANYONE!, at least, would spare many lives. The reason this is not already the law is because it’s already hard enough keeping homeless people from living it up in prison as it is and nobody in power wants to provide a victimless outlet for those seeking to get medical care without having to wait until the end of this year even in such fashion.

    Our prisons are supposed to be a deterrent. Traffic laws are not supposed to be for fundraising. Putting two train tracks in parallel and requiring only one antique signal that says next to nothing for both tracks should have a firing squad for our director of transportation appointed in short order. Seriously, this family deserves to see head’s roll and desperately needs more then these posts to inform them of just how little deniro not sparing there heir such lethal insult was supposed to save. The people staring at monitor’s needed to know less about these trains then this bicyclist. They watch on fiber, in full HD color, in conditioned offices wearing suit and tie while tens of thousands of us and are best and brightest children especially die.

  5. JD says:

    Our prayers go up for the family and friends of the young victim.

  6. Joe B says:

    I wonder if perhaps decreasing amount of time that the gates are down before the train passes, and raising the gates immediately afterwards, might increase safety. Currently, gates drop LONG before the train arrives; this conditions people to ignore the gates if they don’t see a train coming. Similarly, the gates often take 10-15 seconds to begin to rise after the train passes, so people ignore them.

    If the gates were to always raise immediately once the tracks are clear, then if the gates didn’t rise after a train (due to a second train incoming), pedestrians and drivers would notice the unusual situation and exercise more caution.

  7. Karl says:

    Well. Your update and links to sources is appreciated. I in reading what you pasted didn’t understand because I didn’t know this was a case of transit crap remaining in use for so many years despite this if correctly described false flag being dropped every time a second train requests the crossing close prior to it opening up. From the video of the witness and the words typed up there is when this happens a hiccup. I believe I may have shared being kept awake all night when a relay or powersupply failed correctly adn the train comiong clarion in front of Staples where an entire building was kept awake for hourse with it running nonstop. This is standard engineering- err with caution.

    Not the case atthis crossing though. His mom wanted him to wait until the gait was all the way up- his mistake was he waited at all apprently. If he would of crossed after the train passsed, after he looked both ways, he would be alive now and not even know, still be in danger, that looking at that machine will get you killed if you use it as your starting gun. This must be very common.

    Someone needs ot go TODAY and videotape this gate telling people it’s going up- then a moment later saying ” just kidding!” …. REALLY not funny.

    Mom don’t accept less then $50,000,000 AND gates that don’t move at all until it’s really safe nationwide. We need to crowd fundraise and give her a few hundred thousand to resist the temptation to blame her son and not suffer the work of taking down these defective guns. Someone please set that up asap as well.

  8. Karl says:

    This is really really rough. This is as bad as it’s ever been reported to be. We are definitely in the belly of the beast on this: “rail crossings in the city limits, 10 of which are street level, and 22 fatalities occurred at crossings and railroad rights-of-way in Riverside County from 2008 to 2012, according to Operation Lifesaver.”

    hey that’s not bad right? That’s less then one fatality a year per crossing- it a dozen and a half short of that many going back four years (not counting the last one or others in 2013) in just this city.

    This is notthe first time the gait did bait. These reporters- all three of them, are inept. (as shown in the two video’s linked in update four)

    I did not know about these other deaths when I first commented I just assumed as much.

    THe vidceo suggests that the sidewalk used didn’t even hve the gate extend to it!

    Joe B is correct- the safety delay on the gate going up is an obsolete thing from before integrated circuits or even transistor’s probably. I doubt there is even a federal rule but if there is insufficient protest of it and instead soon no horn in these residential zones at all unless to just lie and say it was used as if in time to stop another being hit with gall.

    I know most everyone is making up stuff to not linger on this evil industry with upward middle finger at all of us especially those onthat train made to catch a quieting bus.

    As if that will remove another kids stain from everywhere including I’m sure his brain. The video notes the reporters have checked to see if the new signs installed at the next crossing reminding people trains gravel both ways simultaeously have yet been installed on this crossing in the same twon and nearby and they say nope. Of course no new signs there- there are ten or more such crossings and not one other child has yet died atthis crossing yet! TAkes Ibet 3 before a cheap piece of metal on a pole will any one crossing get.

    Meaning 22 in 9 stops. Extremely unlikely that at most only two have died at all those.

    I’m not done and this is not fun.

    48 months

    on average five and a quarter a year- not counting this last one shown there rolling spear educated away not towards fear. Everyoen knows if the gate moves so can you. That’s what’s taught.

    Let me end not with sneer. THe facts seem quite clear. This gate design will say run- exactly sometimes at the precise moment where you will die. Every time. THe delay in going up is arbitrary and far too long. It cares not how close the other train is. When the first has passed- it tells you to cross, even if the next train is not in sight but will take you out regardless of once you see it how hard you fight.

    Obviiously I apologize for sugggesting that 50 million would not be an insult. The debt to collect is billions.

  9. Karl says:

    Warren Buffet could write that multibillion dollar check and might very well be the one who refused to fix this defect at least three times now. He bought BNSF rail for a hundred bucks a share in full finally as linked by the kid blamer and has a ‘driver’ talking crap about how nothing could stop him from crushing kids in his way to get that evil pay. Does his frugality include not isolating the assets to cover the check a jury might demand? It might.

    “Buffett began his education at Rose Hill Elementary School in Omaha.” Unlike the kids he continues to slaughter HE ” graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in 1947, where his senior yearbook picture reads: “likes math; a future stockbroker”.

    Even as a child, Buffett displayed an interest in making and saving money. ” So now after using millions of dollars to treat his prostate he apparently to actual mortals must be forced to compensate.

  10. lynn says:

    Part of the problem needs to be Metro Link most accidents include the metrolink. Are they Sounding the horn? Has any one really looked into this? I have seen personally been at the tracks and a frieght train sounds the horn bur behind that comes a metrolink and does not sound it horn because the frieght train is still at crossing.

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