A Santa Barbara man was struck and killed by a train yesterday, May 26, near the downtown Amtrak station. According to police spokesman Lt. Paul McCaffrey, rescue personnel responded at 5:24 p.m. to a call of a pedestrian-train collision and found that the man, a 23-year-old SBCC student, had died at the scene.
The incident and its after effects, said McCaffrey, was witnessed by around 150 Santa Maria schoolchildren, ages 8-12, waiting at the station near the 200 block of State Street.
Police took a number of statements from bystanders, including the train engineer and parents of the children, and determined that the victim had been walking towards downtown on the station-side of State Street when the track’s traffic control arms came down in front of him and warning lights began flashing and bells started ringing. According to McCaffrey, the victim walked around the control arms into the path of the oncoming train, which was travelling northbound from Los Angeles to San Luis Obispo at an estimated 35-45 mph.
As the victim walked onto the tracks, his head was reportedly turned to the left, towards the station and away from the train, but — when the engineer spotted him, sounding the horn and activating the emergency brake — the victim turned his head to right at the last minute, just as he was hit. The victim, said McCaffrey, was dragged beneath the cars, coming to a stop directly in front of the group of schoolchildren.
The kids were reportedly initially excited by the sound of the train’s horn, clapping and cheering as they waited along the platform’s yellow line, but became horror-stricken at the sight of the accident. Many became physically upset to the point of crying and hyperventilating. Cases of water were provided, said McCaffrey, and buses came to transport the schoolchildren back to Santa Maria.
Police say the victim lived in a local hotel, and the coroner is working to determine if he was impaired. His name has not yet been released.
The train’s engineer was reportedly too upset to continue, and another engineer was brought in to operate the train the rest of the way to San Luis Obispo.