A southbound New Mexico Rail Runner Express train struck and killed a female bicyclist at about 11 a.m. Saturday at the intersection of Zia Road and St. Francis Drive, marking the commuter train's second fatality of the week.
On Monday, a southbound train from Santa Fe to Belen fatally hit a pedestrian near Second Street and Prosperity Avenue in Albuquerque. New Mexico State Police identified the victim as Mary Odell, 67, of Albuquerque.
According to witnesses of Saturday's collision, the woman, a 60-year-old Santa Fe resident, was wearing headphones as she was riding her bike westbound on Zia Road, said Santa Fe Police Department Lt. Andrew Padilla. The woman’s identity was withheld pending notification of her family.
The area was closed for about seven hours as crews investigated the accident. Augusta Meyers, a spokeswoman for the Mid-Region Council of Governments, which oversees the commuter rail service, said trains generally travel at about 30 mph in that area, but the exact speed of the train involved in the collision won’t be known until investigators can retrieve the train’s speed information.
Padilla said the crossing gates, which aim to prevent vehicular traffic from crossing the tracks while a train is passing, were down at the time, but witnesses told police the woman was riding on a sidewalk adjacent to the bars.
“It’s still up in the air if she was trying to beat the train, or [if she] didn’t see it coming,” Padilla said.
Police questioned the 99 passengers who were on board the Rail Runner before they were escorted onto city buses, which shuttled them to their destinations, passengers said.
Passenger Steve Duran, who was on the train for the first time during a trip with his parents, said he didn’t feel anything as the train was slowing down. But as he was being escorted out of the train at about 12:30 p.m., he said, he saw the woman's body facedown underneath the train car.
“We’ve been wanting to ride the train, and then this happened,” said Tonia Duran, Steve Duran’s mother, whose family was heading back to Albuquerque when the train struck the cyclist.
Franchesca Hentsch, who lives in Albuquerque, drove to the site of the incident after her 11- and 12-year-old daughters called her, saying the train had been in an accident. The girls had been visiting their grandparents in Las Vegas, N.M., and had been dropped off in Santa Fe to catch the train back to Albuquerque.
Hentsch said her 12-year-old daughter told her over the phone that her younger sister had seen the woman’s body as it was being hit by the train. “She almost lost it,” Hentsch said. “I just told her to say her prayers.”
Passenger David Glenn, who rides the train three days a week, said as the train was slowing down, he didn’t think anything was wrong because he thought it was arriving at a stop. But a train employee then announced that there had been an accident involving a pedestrian.
A bystander, who had been driving west on Zia Road at the time of the collision, said he noticed the train slowing down and heard someone yell, “A pedestrian got hit.”
Contact Uriel J. Garcia at 986-3062 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @ujohnnyg.