Teenage boy dies in apparent train suicide

Crossing at West Meadow Drive has been the site of several fatalities this year

Another train-related fatality occurred about 10:50 p.m. Monday night on the tracks in Palo Alto about 50 yards south of West Meadow Drive, Caltrain officials announced.

The victim is a teenage boy, and the case is being investigated as a suicide, police Sgt. Dan Ryan reported. The youth's name has not been released.

According to one unconfirmed report, the youth was a junior at Gunn High School. Palo Alto schools Superintendent Kevin Skelly was meeting with Gunn officials and staff this morning.

Caltrain spokesperson Christine Dunn said southbound train No. 194 struck a person on the tracks, which were shut down briefly. Passengers were transferred to another southbound train, and trains were single-tracked in both directions while police and investigators secured the area, she said.

The West Meadow crossing has been the site of several suicides and apparent suicide attempts since spring, prompting an outpouring of community concern and programs within schools and community to present alternatives to suicide.

A forum, "View of Youth Stress: Warning signs and strategies for coping and dealing with stress from the experts," will be held Wednesday evening in the auditorium at Cubberley Community Center, 4000 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto. It will start with a resource fair at 6:30 p.m., and a panel discussion will take place from 7 to 9 p.m.

Speakers will include Frances Wren, Lucile Packard Children's Hospital; Philippe Rey, Adolescent Counseling Services; and a panel of middle- and high-school students. Information is available at

— Palo Alto Weekly


Like this comment
Posted by USA
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 20, 2009 at 11:53 am

USA is a registered user.

That's terrible. Let's hope that this tread does not spread further.

Like this comment
Posted by kanank
a resident of Shoreline West
on Oct 20, 2009 at 2:46 pm

To all the youngsters: Life is beautiful and a great gift. Every moment is a great joy. No stress is worth taking your life to the tracks. There are people who love you , no matter what. So Live and Enjoy.

Like this comment
Posted by Workerbee
a resident of Monta Loma
on Oct 20, 2009 at 3:03 pm

Always a heartbreaking story and we're hearing it too often lately. I wish he could have known how fleeting his feelings of despair were, and how many friends and options he had. But depression doesn't allow that, nor does a quick decision on a bad day. When there are so many deaths by suicide in our little Palo Alto/Mtn View enclave, it makes me wonder how society fails in every way...from the family, to the school, to the friends, and yes, even to strangers like me.

Like this comment
Posted by Old Timer
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Oct 20, 2009 at 3:09 pm

While this really is a tragedy, I wonder why there is not a call for the source of the problem to be reviewed, rather than just the symptoms. The source is obviously the School that these disturbed individuals are either attending, or in at least one case, was going to attend. Obviously something wrong is going on there.

Has anyone really looked at the similarities between the people involved (including the ones that were prevented)? There must be some link between at least a few of them.

BTW, there is no "neighborhood" selection for where I live, even though my house has been here for over 30 years... so I just picked one.

Like this comment
Posted by Frances
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 20, 2009 at 5:05 pm

How very, very sad.

I was just noticing the other day that the 24/7 police presence at the RR crossings was gone. Not that they could really stop someone who was determined to die, just something I noticed.

Like this comment
Posted by Detective
a resident of another community
on Oct 20, 2009 at 5:48 pm

Hmm, everyone seems to be focusing on the psychological aspect of this, but I wonder if there isn't a more practical issue. Often teens employ anti-acne drugs that cause depression. It might be useful to know whether this played any role in these very unfortunate cases.

Like this comment
Posted by Sheri
a resident of Monta Loma
on Oct 20, 2009 at 6:00 pm

An excellent question, Detective. I hope someone is looking into this. Or other medications or products these students may have been using that could contribute to sudden onset of depression.

Like this comment
Posted by mtn view resident
a resident of The Crossings
on Oct 20, 2009 at 6:18 pm

What about a "neighborhood watch" concept, where folks sign up for walking around these key train intersections (taking dogs for a walk, for example) around the trains' arrival times? If folks were out walking, talking, taking dogs for walks during the key times (the schedules are, of course, published) it could serve as a deterrent, a distraction, or, best case, an opportunity for outreach.

It would take a major volunteer effort, and scheduling challenge, but it might increase awareness, visibility, and preventive opportunity.

Like this comment
Posted by Daisy
a resident of another community
on Oct 20, 2009 at 6:37 pm

Brilliant to hear folks digging for the real issues. For a while this has been approached by grief-induced bad-ideas like demanding the barrier trees be cleared, and increasing the volume of Caltrain horns. Both these awful ideas have been put into practice along some sections of track and clearly - it did nothing to stop the latest tragedy.

Like this comment
Posted by Bradleigh
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 22, 2009 at 8:26 am

So sad. Did all these students attend Gunn High School? If so, something needs to be looked at to see if there are any correlations. Seriously.

Like this comment
Posted by Karen
a resident of Monta Loma
on Oct 23, 2009 at 1:04 am

Very tragic news and very upsetting. When I came to the peninsula in 1979 there were always flowers and wreaths left at that intersection from a prior time when someone had died there. We all want this trend to stop and need to seek ways to help our young people feel less alienated. Teenage years can be full of joy but also despair and young people feel things so deeply. How can we help these kids see that death is permanent . . . but problems don't have to be.

Like this comment
Posted by Julie
a resident of another community
on Oct 24, 2009 at 2:28 pm

Is it possible to install a one-mile barrier along the tracks, a similar idea borrowed from the Golden Gate Bridge Suicide barrier? Is there any talks about building a barrier?

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