Mountain View Voice

News - August 28, 2009

Coroner releases name of 13-year-old train victim

by Jay Thorwaldson

Catrina Holmes, 13, of Palo Alto, was officially identified as the girl who stepped in front of a passenger train on Friday night of last week, ending her life.

The Santa Clara County Medical Examiner-Coroner's Office late Tuesday afternoon confirmed her identity, which already was widely known in the community.

Holmes was the daughter of Thomas J. Holmes, a well-known aerospace engineer, and Natasha Holmes.

Her name was being withheld by school and counseling agency officials but was extensively published on Twitter and Facebook, two social-networking services. A link on Twitter points to an extensive posting of photos of Holmes at different ages.

Her parents are reportedly in isolation.

Her death has rocked Palo Alto emotionally, as it follows two earlier adolescent suicides on the train tracks, at least one suicide attempt by another teenager, and an earlier suicide of a 29-year-old Palo Alto woman.

In an effort to prevent future suicides, school, city, Caltrain and health care officials are joining forces with counselors in plans to put together a community-wide coalition. The coalition would design and implement an aggressive mental-health program targeted at adolescents and families.

Liz Kniss, president of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, said the board's Health and Hospital Committee, which she chairs, will take up a proposed "Suicide Prevention Task Force" on which the council mental health staff has been working since June.

Kniss said she proposed the task force following the second adolescent death in early June. Nancy Pina, head of the county's Mental Health Department, has been working on it since.

On Monday, Caltrain officials echoed Kniss' call for a community-wide effort to address mental health issues.

Caltrain spokesman Mark Simon said at a news conference in San Carlos that the transit agency's employees are "devastated" by every death on the tracks. Caltrain is committed to preventing further deaths, Simon said, and is participating in the mental health task force in Palo Alto.

The agency conducts regular training for its transit security deputies and others to help them spot different types of mental illness, and defuse situations where people wish to harm themselves, according to Simon.

Caltrain considers awareness tactics more effective than reactive measures, such as surveillance cameras and extra police patrols, Simon said, adding that it is more realistic, and effective, to address the mental health issues behind these deaths than to focus on the tracks themselves.

"We have to find a way to encourage people not to step in front of our trains," he said. "You can't stop the train the way people would like us to."

Caltrain's service area, which includes San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, sees an average of 300 suicide deaths a year.

Bay City News contributed to this report.


Posted by sad, a resident of Castro City
on Aug 27, 2009 at 5:42 pm

People really are unbelievable.. I don't understand why you feel the need to publish the young girl's name AND her family's name. This article looks like something you would read in the tabloids. LEAVE THE FAMILY ALONE!!! why don't people understand that YES something terrible happened.. but there is no need to build up another sad story. I know people LOVE to meddle in other's business but half of you were not affected by the young girl and will not even remember what happened a few days from now.. so PLEASE leave the family alone and go on with your lives.


Posted by reader, a resident of another community
on Aug 27, 2009 at 11:04 pm

What useful purpose is served by publishing the name of a 13-year old girl who apparently committed suicide? How can revealing her identity to the entire community be in ANY way beneficial?

This is tragic and there are numerous studies to support the "copycat" effect of news coverage of suicides. The Voice and all our papers need to closely re-examine the possible unintended consequences of this news coverage.

Posted by Reality Check, a resident of another community
on Aug 28, 2009 at 1:55 pm

People are curious about things like this. Knowing the girl's name isn't meddling any more than knowing a the name of those killed in a crime or a car crash is. The outrage expressed by "sad" indicates there is something shameful or embarrassing about suicide for "sad". And if, as sad states, everyone will not even remember a few days from now, then what's "sad" problem with people finding out a little more about who died? Speaking for myself, I am always interested in finding out a little more about people that chose to die in such dramatic and public ways. I wonder if maybe I know them, or if I'll recognize the name, etc. Maybe I went to school with them or one of their siblings. Nothing to be ashamed of. It's a terrible tragedy for everyone involved, to be sure. Maybe I'm weird, I like to read about people in obituaries too. Their lives, their accomplishments and, yes, even how they died. It all fits into understanding the human condition and somehow making sense of it. We're all going to die too someday.

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