SAN JOSE — At least 53 people intentionally have killed themselves on Caltrain tracks since 1992, and another man died Tuesday night. Now, the commuter train system hopes to make life along the rails safer by installing more than 400 signs seeking to deter potential suicides.
“There is Help,” the signs read. The signs also contain an image of two clasped hands and a toll-free phone number for the Suicide Prevention Hotline.
“This is an all-out effort by Caltrain to end the deaths along the railways,” said San Mateo County Supervisor Mike Nevin. “If we save one life, those signs are worth our efforts.”
In San Bruno, Richard McAllister, 35, was seen lying on the Caltrain tracks moments before being fatally struck at about 9 p.m. Tuesday.
McAllister was the 99th person killed by a train along the tracks since 1992.
His death comes one week after a man committed suicide along the same train route – the 53rd confirmed suicide along the tracks since 1992.
Nevin came up with the idea in an effort to cut down on the mounting number of deaths along the tracks that have been ruled suicides.
Last year, trains killed 17 people along Caltrain tracks and seven of those deaths were ruled suicides. There have been three suicides by train so far this year.
Caltrain officials are hoping that anyone considering suicide along the tracks will change his mind after seeing the signs reminding him that “somebody in the world cares,” Nevin said.
Golden Gate Bridge officials post similar signs to deter jumpers.
Bob Atchison, a Caltrain engineer, has been operating trains for nearly 30 years and has experienced the helplessness of hitting someone bent on suicide.
By the time a train engineer sees the despondent person, it’s too late, Atchison said.
“You blow the whistle, you go into emergency brakes, and then you just pray,” Atchison said. “You can’t stop. It’s a foregone conclusion unless they decide to get out of your way.”