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Goleta teen's death highlights railway dangers

By Victoria Sanchez, KEYT NewsChannel 3 Anchor/Reporter, victoriasanchez@keyt.com
Published On: Jul 11 2013 07:36:56 PM CDT
Updated On: Jul 11 2013 11:32:35 PM CDT

The investigation into the death of Edwin Garcia is ongoing. It's not known why the 15-year-old was on the tracks; what is known is the impact of his death on his family and the community.

GOLETA, Calif. -

A Goleta teen was hit and killed by a train in June, and the accident has been a wake-up call to the community.

The investigation into the death of Edwin Garcia is ongoing. It's not known why the 15-year-old was on the tracks; what is known is the impact of his death on his family and the community.

It was the evening of June 21. Edwin's family would never be the same.

"Our imaginations, our minds were working with the hope that it wasn't him. But it was him," said Patricia Delgado, the mother of Edwin's girlfriend.

He was a quiet kid at Dos Pueblos High School, but hundreds came to honor a life cut far too short.

"The last thing I talk to him about was a job application," said Joseph Delgado.

"It was a brief conversation, and I told him I'd see him again, but I never did," said Anthony Limon, Edwin's cousin.

His death touches many.

Edwin's family comes from modest means, so a special fundraising event helped cover all the funeral expenses.

"We're extremely grateful for all the help. I couldn't have done it, emotionally and financially," said Bernarda Castro, Edwin's mother.

What happened to Edwin happens far too often.

It is illegal to be on railroad property unless it is a designated crossing, but it doesn't stop people from going there.

It's not hard to find evidence of people's presence along the tracks.

"People find it more convenient to walk along the train tracks then to, say, walk to a location like a foot bridge to access another part of town that they're going to. So it's very tempting to utilize the train tracks in that regard," said Sgt. Riley Harwood, Santa Barbara Police Department.

California leads the nation in the number of people killed while walking along the tracks. Nationwide in 2012, 442 people were killed, and 74 of those were in the Golden State.

"Our hearts go out to the family and friends of the young individual in Santa Barbara County, and our train crews feel that loss along with the family and friends of individuals involved in incidents like this. It's really a difficult situation for everyone," said Aaron Hunt, spokesperson for Union Pacific Railroad.

People walking, playing or just hanging out near the tracks is common. People often think they can hear the train before it comes, but that's not always true.

"The acoustics of the area can really funnel the sound the train makes and even the horn sound away from the area. So a lot of the time, people are not aware that a train is coming. So if they're walking with their back to the train on railroad tracks, they're putting themselves in a very dangerous position," said Hunt.

Another misconception is if you walk along the side of the tracks, you'll be safe. However, trains overhang their tracks by several feet.

"Trains are unforgiving. There's just too much weight to be messing with," said Lt. Butch Arnoldi, Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office.

Trains weigh hundreds of thousands of pounds and can reach speeds of 60 mph. It can take more than a mile to stop.

Conductors are helpless if someone is in the way.

"It's a type of thing that officers are trained to deal with, but it's never easy; it's one of the most unpleasant things I think officers have to deal with," said Sgt. Harwood.

Edwin's family will never get him back, but they do have a message for others who might be thinking about heading to the tracks.

"That is not a playground. It's not for them to be there. They have to stay away from that completely. One-hundred percent completely," said Patricia Delgado.

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