Police: Female bicyclist fatally hit by Rail Runner

In this file photo the Santa Fe Police Department responds to a fatal collision between the a southbound New Mexico Rail Runner Express train and a female bicyclist at Zia Road and St. Francis Drive about 11 a.m. Saturday, April 19, 2014. Uriel Garcia/ The New Mexican

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 ugarcia@sfnewmexican.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ujohnnyg.

(40) comments

Kathie LeBeau

Folks, first of all, I've never posted anything before, but I'm so tired of hearing and reading all the speculation and assumptions (and most of us know the old adage about assumptions). I'm here to tell you what few details I know to be true, not what someone 'heard' or 'read in the paper' 'thought they saw' etc. My sister was the cyclist killed Sat. at Zia Rd. Experienced, thoughtful, careful in ALL her ways, including her love, cycling. SHE DOES NOT RIDE WITH HEADPHONES ON - - EVER. I also know SHE DOES NOT OWN A WALKMAN OR IPOD OR THE LIKE, so that makes headphones a moot point. She does have ONE set of earbuds for her smartphone, which a friend gave her, and I found those today, still sitting at home, on her desk. She wears proper riding gear, and on very cold days (which those who live here know Sat. was warm) she might wear an appropriate rider's headband. So instead of discounting this accident as just another example of careless riding, my wish would be that, as further FACTUAL data about Saturday are revealed, those who want to have an impact on making life in our town safer, whether for people on foot, or in, or on, wheeled vehicles, consider pragmatic solutions, such as pedestrian crossing gates that were mentioned, to reduce the likelihood of future tragic events.

ariel anders

i'm very sorry for you and and your family's loss Kathie... sudden tragedy is more horrible than anyone can ever imagine. i've been there and i just wish you and your family and your sister's family all the best... there *is* someone that watches over us.. i don't really know who, because.. i'm just a little person in this great and awe inspiring universe.. but there is a someone. please rest assured. take care my friend.

Kathie LeBeau

Thanks for the soothing words, Ariel.

I walked all around that site on Easter Sunday, and I could see that, at this particular ped-crossing, a train gate could be very effective. Any one who might have the inclination to bypass such barriers by going around (which does not fit my sister's profile) would be deterred. There is a fairly sharp dropoff at the edge of the blacktop'ed walkway, filled with sand, and medium sized boulders. Difficult to get any traction, I would imagine, if one left the paved area.

Given the extent of recent improvements to pedestrian zones around St Francis from Zia to St Mikes, the lack of a ped-crossing gate seems an oversight. I know there are no 100% solutions, but to paraphrase one post-er, we protect people in cars with such gates, why not pedestrians?

Khal Spencer

My condolences, Kathie. The original reports of headphones, etc, were unconfirmed and posted elsewhere. I'm glad you cleared that up.

Santa Fe is a Silver Level Bicycle Friendly Community. Its path system should be second to none. I was a reviewer of Santa Fe's application to the League of American Bicyclists when The City Different first applied and recieved Bronze. I think I also reviewed the Silver level application.

The city is hamstrung by its bicycle-treacherous state highways. I think one reason Santa Fe is now Silver (and I supported its application) is because of its strides in making accommodations for cyclists in spite of a challenging road situation. There is no excuse for second best on these bike trails. That issue must in all fairness be laid at the feet of the stage agencies responsible for the design. I don't understand the reluctance to add appropriate controls on such a major intersection.

People make mistakes. They should have some backup from good design. That is just good transportation engineering.

Francisco Carbajal

Kathie, my condolences to you and your family. It is a sad day for Santa Fe to experience this tragedy, yet, I do feel with grief and loss for your family. May your sister rest in peace and I will keep your family in my prayers. [sad]

ariel anders

i've noticed that several posters here say that this person should have ample warning with gates dropping, lights flashing, and the trains horn blaring.

this isn't true. the rail runner essentially runs through ALL intersections *without* using it's horns unless there is some sort of imminent danger in the intersection such as a car that stopped too far into the interesection, someone walking too close, or as in this case, a person on a bicycle...

they even have a sign by the trains depot by the railyard, by st. elizabeth's shelter, on cordova, st. michaels, llano, etc that say the intersection is (and i don't remember the exact wording, but i'll summarize), 'QUIET ZONE - NO TRAIN HORN WILL BE SOUNDED"

maybe it's time to change that? i remember the santa fe southern used to ALWAYS sound it's horn at ALL intersections...

if people want that silly train.. they need to be able to hear it coming.

otherwise, the state needs to list it for sale on ebay.

just my opinion.

Steve Salazar

“The crossing arms were down, the train was honking its horn several times. The conductor tried to stop the train and struck the pedestrian or bicyclist at the same time,” explains Santa Fe Police Lt. Andrew Padilla.

The SFNM report is incomplete

ariel anders

the train engineer was honking because he saw the lady.. but normally that train would *not* have sounded it's horn.

like i said, the rail runner does *not* normally sound it's horn. apparently it was some kind of agreement with the city and the d.o.t.

all they have as an audio warning is that KLANKING sound at intersections.

to me? that's unacceptable. they need to sound the horn... they are LOUD and they get attention. but that is what you need if you can't make an emergency stop at 30mph in 250 feet such as was in this case.

Jimmy Green

Unless it's a designated bike trail, riding bicycles on city sidewalks is against the law. As it is in most all cities. Bicyclists are to FOLLOW THE SAME RULES OF THE ROAD AS CARS. But too many cyclists in this town just don't got time for that. And the so called "Sharrows" on the east side are a nuisance and a dangerous joke.

Khal Spencer

We are talking about the Santa Fe Rail Trail, Jimmy. Its a bike trail.

Jimmy Green

Reading this article, one has to ask themselves, Did two people get hit? A 60 yo santa fe woman AND a 67 yo albuquerque woman?

Khal Spencer

Here is my read, in order of importance.

1. Lack of situational awareness. No one should ever ride/drive/walk across the railroad tracks without stopping, looking, and listening. Tracks are hard to miss. I don't think the public in New Mexico takes them as seriously as we should. Sure, trains only pass by a few times a day. But when they do, one really should stay outa the way.

2. Bike paths breed complacency. Cyclists are still in traffic a lot of the time, even it if is other bicycle traffic. As someone posted on my blog today, "...This type of accident is not uncommon. It happened five years ago in Pecos w a runner using earphones. In bigger cities there are more frequent stories of runners/cyclists doubling-back on bike trails without looking and being seriously injured in collisions with other cyclists. Flashing lights and pedestrian crossbars are useless for these types of incidents. It's assumed you're listening and feeling whats going on in your surroundings..."

3. Just because you can buy earphones, it doesn't mean they are always a good idea.

4. With all due respect to Pat, the city and state built these paths because they designed the roads to be tough on cyclists in the interests of maximizing motor vehicle level of service (a technical term Transportation Secretary Tom Church can explain or if not, I will). Make the paths safer by using the same signage standards we use on roads. Please. I suspect we spent enough money today to pay for lights.

Steve Salazar

If this station was open, as it should have been, years ago, the train would have been getting ready to stop, the incident might have been preventable. The bike would have been further up the path with a slower train coming in.

I hope you NIMBY's can sleep at night, with this blood on your hands.

Carolyn DM

Oh, so there should be a stop before every single major intersection? How would the woman have been further up the tracks if the stop was there? The NIMBY, "blood on your hands", is just assinine.

Comment deleted.

I'm not sure, Steve Spraitz, what you're meaning is, but this is the first I've ever heard of anyone expecting a TRAIN to stop & allow a pedestrian/cyclist safe passage. Ever. I'm hoping you simply didn't read the article or hear the news.

Prayers out to the family & friends of the woman.

Never, ever wear headphones while cycling & always, always, stop, look & listen for trains. You never try to beat a train. We were taught that for as long as I can remember.

Meredith Madri

in the 1980's I worked in the ER as a paramedic in NY.
One day we had a "John Doe" DOA, aged 15 yrs., he'd been hit by a truck while riding his bike, alas, while listening to his "Walkman" (remember those?). He never knew what had hit him.
it took hours for the police to find the boy's family, which they did by going door-to- door with the mangled bicycle.
I will never forget the look on the face of the boy's father, coming into the trauma unit to identify his dead son. Devastating.

And still... so many years later, it pains me to read about another life lost... and seemingly preventable.
Riding a bike in our town is dangerous to begin with, I hope people of all ages will take heed, and leave the iPods behind when venturing out for a ride. We need all of our senses focused in the "here and now" to help avoid another tragedy.
My thoughts go out to the victim's family.

Steve Salazar

I know that Khal takes bicycle safety seriously. Here in Santa fe, however, too many do not.

My wife tells me, almost on a daily basis, how so and so, a person we know, runs the red light on his bike going through the intersection of Cerrillos and Osage/St. Michaels at 7:45am.

This is cheating death, daily, on purpose. He is probably thinking that he needs to get to work on time, not so much that the sun may be in a drivers eyes, and he won't be seen, or that a texting driver may not notice him.

This is, of course, different, from the train incident, or is it?

Jimmy Green

well, neither does the city. If they did, they'd offer bicycle safety courses. They would enforce helmet laws for kids under 18. there would be adequate bicycle lanes throughout town, not just the south-side. There would be audible and visible signals on the rail/trail bike path that runs through town. There would be a better solution to the tracks that cross diagonally across bike baths and streets. But no. None of that in Santa Fe, The city indifferent.

Alfred Padilla

My condolences to the family.

Alfred Padilla

Staci Benni

“We’ve been wanting to ride the train, and then this happened,” said Tonia Duran. I am amazed at this statement. It epitomizes "I am the universe" syndrome that too many people have nowadays. No compassion for the person who dies--just an expression of her being inconvenienced. Just imagine how inconvenient it is to die unexpectedly for you and your family!

Joyce Sanchez

To Steve Spraitz: Do you have IAA syndrome? I feel bad for you because that would mean you have no compassion, you are racist, and you have no class. A lady died because she was in an accident. She may have been someone's mother, daughter, wife, aunt, etc., and whether it was her fault or not, does not give you the right to demean her like that.
What does IAA mean? I'M AN A........!!!!!! If you can't figure it out, then YOU must be what you sarcastically call other people "BLONDE".

Comment deleted.
kevin patterson

Really? Is that all you can come up with. Sad, but your name says it all

Comment deleted.
Carolyn DM

The driver in this case happened to be driving a train. Seems you missed that bit of information. Your 'BLONDE', reference shows how little class you have.

Comment deleted.
Carolyn DM

The traffic stops, the many lights flash, the bells ring and the gates come down. All of that happens well before the train goes through that intersection. She was going west on Zia which means she went through the intersection.

Interesting choice for a name...

Carolyn DM

It's tragic but at the same time, with all the warnings at that major intersection, flashing lights, gates, horns, it's hard to believe this happened.

Roy Blythe

When I was a kid, we were taught to stop, look, and listen at railroad tracks. We were also taught that cars were bigger than pedestrians and that cars had the right of way.

Now, for the past 20-30 years, kids have been taught that they have the right of way.(step into a cross walk and all traffic is supposed to stop)

Is it any wonder then, that pedestrians cross roads and railroad tracks without checking to see if something is coming?

We need to get back to teaching that cars are bigger than pedestrians, and trains are bigger than cars, so WATCH

Khal Spencer

We had a lot of rural roads where I grew up where the only control was a "stop, look, and listen" white RR crossing sign. You ignored them at risk of your life, as trains out in the country were really hauling as they went past.

Situational awareness is Rule #1 whenever you are out on the road, whether on a bike, motorcycle, in a car, or on foot. This is really an unnecessary and tragic event. Leave the cell phones, smartphones, and earphones at home or packed where you will not be tempted to use them. And really. The smaller you are (ahem, fellow bicyclists) the more you depend on the grey matter rather than sheer mass to stay outa trouble.

Sabine Strohem

Ron, both the folks who were killed this week were in their 60s.

adam eisman

Both of these women were in their sixties, and anyway, I don't know anyone who teaches or has taught their children that they have the right of way and all traffic is supposed to stop. Where are you getting your information?

Khal Spencer

It looks to me from Google view like there is a bike sidepath without a gate control on it. Anyone know if that is the case still?

David Gunter

You are correct, there is no gate controlling the grade crossing. I routinely ride this path and have never even considered that such a thing was missing. There is a sharp right turn in order to make the crossing which forces me to slow down considerably, giving me the chance to look. On the north side of Zia the trail continues but never crosses the tracks again.

A News 13 commenter who apparently witnessed the accident mentioned that the cyclist was wearing headphones and likely could not hear the train. So very sad but easily avoided, if that is the case.

Khal Spencer

Thanks, Dave.

One should not need a protective gate, but NMDOT puts them on the road but not on the sidepath. Something I don't understand here. If safety determines one uses gates on the road, one should use them on the path. Unless, of course, its all about vehicle damage to the train.

This, of course, does not absolve us cyclists of our duty to be paying attention.

Pat Shackleford

We could choose to go bankrupt trying to make "fool" proof every possible hazard for those not qualified to operate machinery or merely not paying attention. How about looking both ways before crossing paths/roadways?

Khal Spencer

Good idea, Pat. But still, why the double standard?

Pat Shackleford

It seems quite difficult to gate every pedestrian/bicycle crossing of the tracks. There would have to be fencing to keep someone from just going around a gate. Vehicles are eaiser to dissuade from driving around the gate structure. Can't say that I've seen automatic gates for such crossings. I can imagine they would also present their unique hazards, such as failing to re-open. And again, there's the huge financial cost. And people would still manage to kill themselves at the tracks. Not passing judgement in this case, but, you can't stop stupid.

Khal Spencer

Pat, I agree that not all crossings deserve whistles and bells, which cost money. But these trails are important parts of the non-vehicle traffic infrastructure, are heavily used, and were built in part because Santa Fe's major roads are so tough to ride on.

It would not take a great deal of money to equip these major bike-ped crossings with gates or lights (I'll take whatever is cheaper) that actuate when the road crossings actuate. Anything less is saying that it is important to keep a car from crashing with a train, but hey, its less important to protect others. Money follows values.

As I said before, none of this means a cyclist or pedestrian should be encouraged to tune out and count on government to keep them safe. Its just that we often put in failsafe countermeasures to prevent this sort of thing, which costs a lot of money, too (train delay, damage, individual time lost, police investigations).

Happy Easter, all. If it is not out of keeping with the story. Hopefully that lady is in a better place.

Pat Shackleford

What would be useful now would be a list of every pedestrian/bicycle crossing as you suggest, beginning (logically?) at the Railyard/Tomasitas area, and going out to Rodeo Road. Take a look from Google Maps, satellite view, without "labels". Gives a pretty good view of the necessary locations. Pay attention to how you would fence and gate those crossings. Maybe the city & state could pay for a fea$ibility study.

Khal Spencer

I would rank them by some sort of hazard index. Level of use (numbers per day) and visibility impairment. Top of the list get better whistle and bell treatment. Lesser ones, you are on your own. Same as in the country where I grew up, about 20 miles east of Buffalo, NY, with about 5 heavily used rail lines within a couple miles.

I don't recall anyone being hit at any of them. Back then, people took the tracks a lot more seriously.

Khal Spencer

This is tragic, and my condolences go to the woman's family and to the train engineer. Really would like to know what happened. When I first saw the headline, I figured it was probably at Cerrillos and St. Francis. Much worse arrangement over there for cyclists.

Never take a chance with a railroad crossing.

Kerry Armour

Tragic. My thoughts go out to her family.

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