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Witness saw Auburn cyclist panic, try to outride Amtrak train on trestle

Victim struck, killed by Amtrak train on trestle over Interstate 80 ID'd as Auburn man
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Report
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AUBURN CA - A cyclist killed after being struck by an Amtrak train on the trestle over Interstate 80 just west of Old Town Auburn was identified Monday by authorities. The Placer County Coroner's Office released the name of the victim of Saturday's collision as 49-year-old Danny Stalions. And a man who watched as the Amtrak engine bore down and then fatally struck Stalions said the accident victim appeared to panic when the horn blew and tried to outride the train to the other side. Bobby Wright said he was on the street below in Old Town when the familiar horn blew longer than normal from the Amtrak train as it approached the 120-yard-long trestle. The trestle, with five-foot-wide metal grating on each side of the tracks, stands about 80 feet above the freeway below. Single strands of wire fencing provide a barrier from falling. “I saw homeboy on his bicycle and he turned around and the train seemed to freak him out,” Wright said. “He got on his bike and stood up on the pedals (to gain speed) but he didn’t make it.” The train was already decelerating as it approached the middle of the trestle, where it struck Stalions, Wright said. Wright, who describes himself as a homeless gold prospector, said he had met Stalions and chatted with him a couple of times. “He seemed like a real nice guy,” Wright said. “It wasn’t the engineer’s fault. They did everything they could do. It was God’s calling. We’ve all got a time. Nobody knows when.” Stalions was a transient who lived in the Auburn area, Placer County Sheriff's Office Lt. Mark Reed said Monday. Auburn Police Department Sgt. Rick Hardesty reported that officers were initially called just after 1 p.m. Saturday to the Union Pacific trestle over Interstate 80 for a report of a bicyclist struck by a train. Officers learned that Stalions was walking his bicycle across the trestle, near Old Town Auburn, before he was struck by the Amtrak train, Hardesty said. Stalions was pronounced dead at the scene. Union Pacific spokesman Aaron Hunt said Monday that the railroad police report stated that the cyclist collided with the side of the train. He was illegally on the Union Pacific right of way, Hunt said. “Trains are very dangerous and they’re so large that they may appear to be going slowly as they approach,” Hunt said. Hunt said Union Pacific has established an awareness program that attempts to reinforce the danger of trespassing on Union Pacific rights of way other than at designated railway crossings. California consistently has the highest number of right-of-way trespass fatalities of all states in the nation. In 2011, the count was 58. “It’s disheartening for all of us at Union Pacific and it’s most difficult for those who are operating the trains,” Hunt said. “This is a stark reminder that railroad tracks, trestles and other railroad property in general, any time your near it, is not safe.” The Amtrak train was stopped and all Union Pacific traffic was held during the afternoon as new crew members replaced those involved in the collision.