The accident happened about 40 feet away from the railroad crossing but the impact led investigators much further down the tracks. The Amtrak train came to a stop nearly two hundred yards away. The train was headed from Bakersfield to Oakland when the conductor thought he saw a dog run onto the tracks. Investigators think the victim was chasing after that dog when he was hit. "There was a dead dog found not far from the accident scene and so that may have been the case. And a short time later he saw a man enter the tracks and then knew that he hit him and that's when they stopped," said Merced County Sheriff's Deputy Tom MacKenzie.
Investigators say the victim is a 23 year old man. His family members briefly spoke with deputies before leaving the scene in tears.
Those who live in Planda said deaths on the tracks are far too common. "I feel they are cursed. There's a lot of deaths on these tracks. A lot of deaths," said Planada resident Delores Vasquez.
In 2006, 10 year old old Jose Garcia was hit and killed near the same crossing as he walked home from school. A fence was installed following his death to keep others off the tracks but residents say people still take too many chances. "The fence they put up, it doesn't help," said Vasquez.
Based on witness statements, investigators believe this latest death is an accident. Hours after the crash, they remained at the scene as well as the 146 Amtrak passengers who were delayed by tragedy.