2 men hit, killed by Amtrak train in West Berkeley

Brianna Luna/Staff

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Two men were hit by an Amtrak train and killed on the Union Pacific Railroad tracks near Fourth Street and Bancroft Way on Thursday night.

The men were hit about 8:09 p.m. Thursday by Amtrak’s San Joaquins northbound 717 train, which runs from Bakersfield to Oakland. The two men were known by the nicknames Jupiter and Fixie, according to an article published by Berkeleyside.

The two men had previously lived in the homeless encampment by University Avenue and Hearst Avenue, which was cleared Wednesday by the California Department of Transportation, or Caltrans.

None of the train’s crew members or passengers were injured, and they were all transported to the Emeryville and Jack London Square stations.

Mayor Jesse Arreguín said in an email that he was deeply saddened by the incident. He added that the city must take measures to prevent similar situations from happening again.

“I was deeply saddened to hear of the tragic train accident which occurred on Thursday night, in which two long time homeless residents of Berkeley were killed,” Arreguín said in an email. “This incident highlights the critical need for our City to provide shelter and permanent housing so that people are not living on the streets, and in dangerous conditions. We should not do more harm than has already been inflicted. We will be working with those displaced from Caltrans land to connect them to shelter, services and housing resources.”

Berkeley Fire Department Assistant Chief Keith May said in an email that the fire department has little information on the incident. He added that Union Pacific and Amtrak — which could not be reached as of press time — are currently handling the investigation of the deaths.

Although BART was not involved in the incident, BART spokesperson James Allison said BART has to clear homeless encampments to promote riders’ safety per its policy. He added that BART engages in outreach — including offering connections to social services and possibly alternative housing — with those living on BART property as well as providing them with adequate notice of eviction and the safe storage of their belongings.

“While we at BART have compassion for individuals who lack permanent housing, our top priority is the safety of our passengers. That’s why we, as responsible property owners, must take action when temporary shelters pose a danger to the tracks and trains that carry our riders,” Allison said in an email. “BART works with the cities we serve to remove unsafe structures from underneath or near our tracks. We do so in a manner that is respectful of individuals who do not have permanent homes but still achieves the goal of creating a safe environment.”

Leon Chen is a crime and courts reporter. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @leonwchen.