Update 3/19/14: The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office Coroner’s Bureau has identified the victim as Matthew Finch, 28, from El Cerrito. An autopsy performed Tuesday ruled the cause of death as multiple blunt force injuries. Police said the case is being investigated as a suicide, although there are no definitive conclusions yet.
A man was fatally struck by a freight train early Monday morning in Berkeley, according to city fire officials.
At 9:06 a.m., the Berkeley Fire Department received a report that a pedestrian was hit by a train near the Berkeley and Albany border. Upon arriving on scene, the fire department determined it was a fatality, said Avery Webb, acting deputy fire chief.
An adult man was walking on the train tracks just south of Harrison Street in Berkeley with his back to the oncoming train, according to Union Pacific spokesperson Aaron Hunt. The train crew, which consisted of a conductor and an engineer, saw him and sounded the horn while attempting to stop.
Hunt said the man was struck and killed before the train could come to a complete stop, because Union Pacific freight trains take more than a mile to do so. The man has not yet been identified.
“There is an investigation underway,” Hunt said. “Thus far, we haven’t found headphones or other evidence of any reason why the individual’s hearing would’ve been a problem.”
When the train halted, it blocked Virginia, Cedar, Camelia and Gilman streets for several hours, Webb said. The train began moving again about 1 p.m., according to Hunt.
The Union Pacific train was heading south from Roseville, near Sacramento, to Oakland.
Amtrak spokesperson Vernae Graham said the company, which shares the tracks with Union Pacific, set up a bus bridge to shuttle passengers between Emeryville and Richmond. As of 1:45 p.m., the bus bridge was still in service.
“This serves as a very sad and stark reminder to people that railroad tracks are never a safe place to be,” Hunt said.
In October, Mark Schwartz, a local poet, political activist and member of the homeless population, was struck by a Union Pacific train at Gilman Street in Berkeley. Two witnesses helped save Schwartz’s life.