Teen killed by train was stargazing with friends

Posted at 11:27 PM, Sep 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-27 02:29:27-04

The teenager killed along the train tracks in Del Mar Saturday night was stargazing with friends.

Sheriff's investigators said the 19-year-old from Poway was with two friends using an app to look at the stars from the bluffs.  A Burlington Northern Santa Fe freight train was coming north. The teen was standing near the tracks getting video of the train with his phone when he was hit. Investigators said the teen misjudged the width of the train.

The train was going roughly 40 miles per hour when it struck him. The engineer blasted the horn and flashed the trains lights, but the teen did not move.

Craig Harris lives above the bluffs. He says he sees people walking dangerously close to the tracks all the time.

"They are walking oblivious to the fact that they are walking down the middle of the railroad track with their backs turned and go along not even looking to see if something is coming from the other end," said Harris.

Harris said the commuter trains can be quiet coming through that stretch just north of 13th Street, but there's no missing a freight train.

"I heard one a couple nights ago that will rock your socks,"said Harris.

The North County Transit District recently started enforcing the no trespassing laws along the tracks. Sheriff's deputies have been ticketing people for crossing or walking along the tracks. Fines can range from $75 to $500.

"I have been running and walking and using this bluff, the beach and up here for 58 years," said Harris.

Roughly 600 people have signed a petition asking the North County Transit District to issue a moratorium on the fines. They also want the city to provide another legal crossing. Right now, the only legal crossing is on 15th Street. Ultimately, they want the train off the bluffs in the next 10 years.

"I think they should walk here, I think we should have a right to use this as an easement to access to get to the beach in a number of different areas. It just needs to be safer and how that happens, I'm not sure I can make that decision," said Harris.

The city of Del Mar and the NCTD are working together to come up with a solution. The city council recently formed a committee to look into the issue. The committee is expected to report back to the council in November.

The medical examiner has not released the name of the teenager who was killed.