Family pleas teens stay away from train tracks

March 1, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
The family of an East Bay teenager who was struck and killed Friday night by an Amtrak train is demanding change. The area where she was killed is a popular hangout for young people and the girl's family believes it is another tragedy waiting to happen.

Friends say Marlene Elizabeth Aguirre, was walking near a curved section of tracks late Friday night when the train seemed to sneak up.

"I was within arm's distance of Marlene when the tragedy happened," said friend Nicole Perez.

It was a tragedy at a popular hangout spot for East Bay teens and now the family of the 17-year-old who would have graduated from Richmond High this year is demanding change.

"We're really asking that no one goes down there and officials do something to block off that area to prevent people from going there anymore," said Aguirre's sister Rosa Chavarria.

A sign in the Pinole Shores park warns of the dangers of oncoming trains, but an opening in the fence gives people a straight shot to the train tracks.

It was an Amtrak train that struck Aguirre, but Amtrak says it only leases this section of tracks and that the owner, Union Pacific Railroad, is responsible for maintaining the area around the tracks.

"We've had a good relationship with the City of Pinole and other cities there in that area and we will continue to work with them to try to enhance safety where it makes sense," said Union Pacific spokesperson Aaron Hunt.

"But the fact is most railroad tracks are unfenced and the larger message is trying to encourage young people in helping them find safer places to be," said Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia.

However, keeping the young people off these tracks may be easier said than done. Some of the same teens on hand for the family's danger warnings were found hours later hanging out at the very location where Aguirre was killed.

"We just don't want any other family to go through the tragedy that we're going through today," said Chavarria.

A tragic death occurred with a hopeful ending. Aguirre's tissue and organs were donated to help saved lives.