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Another Fatal Train Accident In The Valley PDF Print E-mail
Written by Alex Garcia   
Thursday, 13 March 2014 03:35

A. Garcia / El Sol

A “Ghost Bike” — a white bicycle representing the death of a cyclist — sits next to the Van Nuys Boulevard/San Fernando Road railroad crossing in Pacoima in honor of Melvin Miranda, who died last year after being hit by a train at the site.

It’s the same place where 41-year-old Jesse James Elkins was also struck on Saturday, March 8, by a Union Pacific freight train, which claimed his life.

According to LAPD Valley Traffic Division investigators, the incident took place around 2 a.m. They found Elkins’ body laying at the railroad crossing. Police say the North Hollywood resident’s death appears to be accidental.

“The train goes by at 55 mph and something from the train, a hose or a scrap metal, hit him and killed him,” said LAPD Det. William Bustos. “But we’re still waiting for the coroner’s office to determine the cause of death and see if he had any alcohol in his system at the time of his death.”

Elkins’ death comes less than two months after another person was run over by a Metrolink train in Sylmar.

On January 30, José Rafael Galicia, 36, apparently disregarded warning horns and several signs that a train was approaching, and was fatally struck by the locomotive. The incident occurred occurred around 10:22 a.m. in the 13000 block of North San Fernando Road, near Cobalt Street. Authorities ruled Galicia’s death as a suicide.

Train related deaths— whether suicides or accidents — have kept investigators busy in the Valley for the past couple of years. In 2013 there were four such incidents; three of them were ruled suicides, authorities could not determine the exact cause of death in the other one.

Many accidents can occur because people are simply not paying attention or are not obeying rail traffic laws, Bustos said.

“We have a lot of vehicles that are going around the train controls when the trains are coming, thinking they can make it through, and people are walking around them,” he noted.

In the case of Elkins’ death, the detective said the victim may not have been outside the 15 feet distance from the railroad tracks that are considered safe for pedestrians when a train is passing.

There are other distractions that can cause accidents, such as people talking on cell phones or wearing headphones when walking on railroad crossings.

According to statistics, a train collides with a vehicle or pedestrian in the United States approximately every three hours. Last year in the City of Los Angeles, there were eight deaths involving train collisions.

California leads the nation in annual rail fatalities. Data from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) shows that there were 43 such incidents reported in the state last year out of the 251 fatalities across the country.

And don’t think a train can immediately stop to avoid an accident even if it slows down around railroad crossings. FRA officials say it takes approximately a mile for a train to stop.

Safety tips for walking or driving around railroad tracks:
▲ Look both ways before crossing
▲ Put down the phone and turn down the car radio volume
▲ Always honor lights and bells at crossing points
▲ Only cross tracks at designated crossing points
▲ Never try to outrun a train
▲ Never go around crossing arms
▲ Be patient