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July 8, 2020
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Third pedestrian struck by SMART train

By: Irene Hilsendager
September 7, 2018

Thursday evening around 5 p.m. the Rohnert Park Dispatch Center received two calls that a pedestrian had walked in front of the SMART train near the Golf Course Dr. crossing. Police officers arrived within minutes and found a 29 -year -old male lying away from the tracks and determined the gentleman was deceased. As of yet, he has not been identified until the next of kin is notified.

Upon interviewing witnesses, the investigators described that the deceased had been walking on the sidewalk going east with his head down and looking at something in his hands. The witness also said that it appeared that headphones were on the man’s head as he was walking and also said he saw the train coming from the south and was very surprised that the man kept walking. The witness also said he heard the train horn sounding as the train approached. He said furthermore, it did not appear the man tried to stop walking and ended in the pathway of the train.

While interviewing the train engineer, the investigators said the engineer briefly saw the man walking towards the track, but being in such close proximity of the track, he sounded the horn to get the pedestrians attention.  While the engineer activated the emergency braking system the train did not come to a stop until approximately 300 feet after the point of impact.

All 84 passengers were taken off the train and escorted to the Park and Ride where they were given alternative transportation. A Rohnert Park Public Safety Officer took two passengers to the Sonoma County Airport for a flight that they had to catch.

After Rohnert Park Traffic Investigators along with SMART officials conducted their investigation to the rail system and warning devices at both crossings, it was determined all warning systems were activated and functional at the crossing. Since the train was traveling into a quiet zone the horn was not required to be sounded but only did so to alert the pedestrian. Officials also inspected the exterior and interior of SMART train and determined all warning systems on the train were activated and functional. It is unknown the speed of the train at the time of the incident and investigators are working to get an electronic data module from the train which records input from the engineer.

The case is still being investigated in cooperation with SMART as well as the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department. Any information may be reported to the RPDPS investigations Bureau at 707-584-2630.

The victim was Joseph DeFrates who had recently moved to Rohnert Park.