Not Again: Caltrain Investigates Palo Alto Suicide

Death may be fourth train-related suicide at Silicon Valley high school

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    NEWSLETTERS

    For the fourth time in less than a year, Caltrain is investigating an apparent suicide on the tracks near Gunn High School.

    A Caltrain spokesperson says the victim is a teenage boy.  He died on the tracks Monday evening within a few yards of three other suicides of Gunn students.  A source told NBC Bay Area he was a student at Gunn.

    Southbound train 194 struck and killed the teen between at E. Meadows Drive and E. Charleston Road at around 10:50 p.m.,  Caltrain spokeswoman Christine Dunn said.

    The most recent suicide was Aug. 22  when a 13-year-old girl, an incoming Gunn freshman, was struck and killed.

    Officially, Caltrain is still trying to confirm the latest death as a suicide.

    "We owe it to the victim as well as to the community to do a  complete and thorough investigation before we release any information," Chistine Dunn said.

    Caltrain has spent more than $17 million for pedestrian gates, fencing and signs to improve safety at their street crossings and help keep people off the tracks.

    In addition to the actual physical changes at the tracks, there's also a focus on mental health as a result of the student suicides.

    Two local meetings on the topic are planned for Wednesday, one  facilitated by Caltrain in which community leaders and local mental health  professionals will discuss the issue. Participants will include  representatives from the Palo Alto Unified School District, the San Mateo  County Health Department and Peninsula Health Care District, and various  police departments.   

    That meeting, scheduled for Wednesday morning, is not open to the  public.

    A  separate, public meeting is planned for 7 p.m. at the Cubberley  Community Center and will feature a panel of middle and high school students  and talks by specialists in child in adolescent psychology from Lucile  Packard Children's Hospital.

    The community center is located at 4000 Middlefield Road. The  event includes a resource fair that begins at 6:30 p.m.

    Both meetings were in the works prior to Monday's death.

    Dunn said she does not yet know whether there are plans to  increase patrols at the crossing but said transit police patrol regularly and  may have stopped a number of would-be suicides this year.

    "Our transit police have been able to successfully intervene more  than 12 times since the beginning of the year, taking people who were  suicidal off the right-of-way," Dunn said.

    Caltrain contracts with the San Mateo County sheriff's office,  which provides a team dedicated to policing the train tracks.

    Anyone seeking help or counseling services can call Adolescent  Counseling Services at (650) 424-0852. The Palo Alto organization contracts with the Palo Alto Unified School District to provide a counseling presence  at middle and high schools in the district.

    Teens can also call a health, relationship, crisis, and  information referral line at (888) 247-7717. The dispatch service directly  connects the caller to needed services.

    Another local organization, Kara, provides grief support for  adults and teens. Kara has also worked with the PAUSD to provide counseling  at the schools and can be reached at (650) 321-5272.

    For immediate help, especially outside of daytime hours, Santa Clara County operates a 24-hour suicide and crisis hotline. Residents in the  north county can call (650) 494-8420, central county residents can call (408)  279-3312, and south county residents can call (408) 683-2482.

    Caltrain says more than half of the death on its tracks in the last six years were suicides.

    Investigators have not released the name or the age of the person who died Monday night.

    Bay City News contributed to this report.