HomeCity NewsAmid Railway Deaths, Metrolink Officials Address Safety

Amid Railway Deaths, Metrolink Officials Address Safety

By Kennedy Zak and
Gavin J. Quinton
Glendale News-Press

The recent death of a 28-year-old man struck by a Metrolink train is among four tragic railway-pedestrian deaths in just over two months in Glendale and Burbank, surpassing the total of three collision deaths reported in 2023.
The man, a Burbank resident, died the morning of May 24 at the rail crossing at Buena Vista Street and Vanowen Street, along Metrolink’s Ventura County Line, which runs through Burbank to Union Station.
This latest collision death, like that of a 51-year-old man who died April 9 on Metrolink tracks near San Fernando Road and Brazil Street between the Glendale and Burbank-Downtown stations, was ruled a suicide by the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner-Coroner’s office.
A similar incident took place on May 2, also along the Ventura County Line at the Doran Street crossing in Glendale, where someone was struck and killed by a Metrolink train. The identity and manner of this person’s death have not yet been released by the medical examiner.
Metrolink Public Relations Manager Chris Gutierrez has noticed the uptick in pedestrian deaths along rail tracks systemwide in Southern California.
“In comparison to last year versus this year… there’s been a bit of a spike in these instances,” Gutierrez said.
In 2023, Gutierrez said there were 69 pedestrian strikes reported across all railroad systems — BNSF Railways, Union Pacific, Amtrak and Metrolink — with 41 being fatal. So far in 2024, there have been 36 strikes and 14 deaths.
In addition to the recent deaths in Glendale and Burbank, two more pedestrians were killed in rail collisions in L.A. County in the last week: one on May 24 in Pico Rivera and one on May 26 in El Monte; these deaths were ruled accidents. Outside of L.A. County, another pedestrian death was reported on May 26 in Riverside along BNSF Railway tracks.
While the medical examiner’s office could not divulge what led to rulings of death by suicide or by accident, they said that in general, an accident is deemed “when there is no evidence of intent to harm.”
Gutierrez shared some insights on accidental train deaths, saying oftentimes it is the result of someone in a non-pedestrian area “meaning not at a crossing or somewhere that is controlled by crossing arms,” adding that it is illegal to be in non-pedestrian locations along the tracks.
Of the seven deaths reported in Glendale and Burbank in both 2023 and 2024, six occurred in non-pedestrian areas, involving both Metrolink and Amtrak trains, said Gutierrez.
“So, somebody walking on the tracks that may have earbuds in and doesn’t hear a train coming could be hit,” Gutierrez said. He also noted that there are many homeless encampments along railroads, which can lead to accidental deaths.
Metrolink Communications Director Scott Johnson elaborated on this point, saying that in areas where law enforcement has identified higher rates of homelessness, the rates of pedestrian-train injuries and fatalities are higher.
In an effort to promote safety, Metrolink has invested significant resources into suicide prevention, rail safety education and awareness, and technology, Johnson said.
An example of this technology is using “strike, trespasser on the right-of-way, and near-hit data to direct enforcement by our Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Bureau and partner jurisdictions,” Gutierrez said.
“Metrolink’s System Safety and Security Department has conducted risk assessments at strike locations and identified mitigations such as adding enviro blocks (large concrete blocks) and fencing,” he added.
Another new safety measure in the works involves developing a track intrusion detection system, which Metrolink received a $1.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to pioneer.

First published in the June 1 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.

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