Gunn High student killed by train; school mourns

Palo Alto and Caltrain officials investigating 8:20 a.m. collision involving a northbound commute train

The 16-year-old male killed by Caltrain Tuesday morning at the East Meadow Drive crossing was a student at Gunn High School, school officials have confirmed. 

They declined to discuss the boy's identity or cause of death, yet urged parents in emails immediately following the tragedy to be aware when kids are troubled, to open lines of communication and to show concern.

An official cause of death of the Gunn junior is expected to come Wednesday afternoon, pending positive identification by the family, the Santa Clara County Coroner's Office said. 

"Our hearts and condolences go out to the student's family and friends at this extremely difficult time," Gunn Principal Noreen Likins wrote in an e-mail to Gunn families and community members.

"As you welcome your children home this evening and tell them you love them, I encourage you to talk with them about the importance of letting caring adults in their lives know if they are having problems or are worried about friends who have problems.

"Breaking the code of silence so often observed by teens, even when they know friends are wrestling with difficult issues, can be the very best, most supportive thing they can do for their peers."

The incident occurred about 8:20 a.m. Tuesday after a northbound commute train hit the teen, who was on the tracks between lowered crossing gates.

"We've got another suicide," a train-intercom announcement believed to be from a train engineer informed conductors, who passed the word to passengers. The train immediately applied full brakes and stopped, a passenger said.

In recent years, two Palo Alto High School students committed suicide on the CalTrain tracks. Steven Wertheimer died in 2002 and Ben Tachibana died in 2003.

School superintendent Kevin Skelly spent Tuesday afternoon at Gunn working through the crisis.

In an e-mail message, Skelly said: "As parents and guardians, we are naturally deeply affected by this type of event. It reminds us how important it is for us, collectively, to redouble our efforts to look out for our young people as they navigate their way into adulthood."

Psychologists and counselors are available for students, staff and parents, Skelly said. Both Skelly and Likins provided parents with a list of organizations offering crisis resources. (Skelly's message is attached below.)



Message sent - 5/5/2009

Message from Superintendent Skelly

Dear Parents/Guardians,

Perhaps you have heard that a student at Gunn High School was killed on the train

tracks this morning. Our sympathy is extended to the student's family, his friends,

classmates and staff at Gunn. I spent the day at Gunn and the entire staff is working

diligently to support students and each other in the aftermath of this tragedy.

As parents and guardians, we are naturally deeply affected by this type of event. It

reminds us how important it is for us, collectively, to redouble our efforts to look out

for our young people as they navigate their way into adulthood.

District psychologists and counselors are available for students, staff and parents

who need to discuss issues surrounding grief and loss. Please contact your school site

principal, psychologist or guidance office if you need assistance. At the District Office,

questions and concerns may be directed to Carol Zepecki at 650/329-3717.

Gunn principal Noreen Likins wrote the following message that was shared with

students today. I hope you will emphasize this message with your child.

"It is very, very important that we look out for each other. If you have problems or

are worried about a friend, if you know of other students who are dealing with

difficult issues, please let a parent, teacher or counselor know. No problem is so big

that a solution cannot be found if people ask for help and support.

Please look after and take care of each other. Each of you is precious to us."

If needed, the following resources are available in our community:

Adolescent Counseling Services 650/424-0852

Center for Living with Dying 408/243-0222

Kara-Grief Support for Children and Adults 650/321-5272

Teen Clinic (Lucile Packard Children's Hospital) 650/694-0600

Teen Line/Crisis Intervention/Counseling 800/852-8336

24/7 Line for Youth 888/247-7717


Like this comment
Posted by Friend
a resident of another community
on May 5, 2009 at 8:06 pm

Man, i feel terrible for his family...I wonder how they're taking this.
Pray for them.

Like this comment
Posted by Mark Ling
a resident of another community
on May 5, 2009 at 9:10 pm

I'm a student from 7th grade, and i think that people should care about their life because without it you could not do anything else.

Like this comment
Posted by PAUSD Alum & Passer By Today
a resident of another community
on May 5, 2009 at 9:36 pm

I was slowed going through the intersection this morning and then shocked to see the yellow tarp covering the body 100 yards from me as I passed by. It was a horrifying reality after just reading about the woman by the San Antonio Street Station yesteday. I prayed it was not a student from the former Wilbur Jr. Hgh adjacent to the site, but it sadddens me very very deeply to know it was a Gunn Sr High School Junior who made this choice today. Adolescence has so much opportunity to make mistakes and if we survive, mistakes we can learn from. My heart goes out to the family, friends and classmates of this young man who saw no other choice for what troubled him. There is always a choice. Always. My heart goes out to this student's family.

Like this comment
Posted by A mother of 3 children
a resident of another community
on May 5, 2009 at 11:02 pm

Please remove the photos. It is such an awful tragedy. Pray for the young man and everyone who loved him.

Like this comment
Posted by Another mother
a resident of another community
on May 6, 2009 at 10:54 am

Please remove photos of the body under the tarp. Those are unnecessary and causing additional stress and pain to family and students. Please, Almanac News, have some integrity.

Like this comment
Posted by pragmatic
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 6, 2009 at 11:38 am

The above poster(s) who insist(s) that the photos be removed is(are) really saying "let's not deal with this -- it's too horrible."

Instead, someone needs to take a hard look at what is happening around here. This is a cold, apathetic community that is more focused on scores, resume fodder, and material wealth than on character or caring for others. Some people have devoted relatives and friends, but for most, there's only adulation if you're at the top and scorn if you're not. As a society, the PA-MP area is devoid of the human connections that add value to our existence.

Maybe those of us who are bothered by the local culture just need to take our vulnerable children and leave, because I don't know that we can change it. But I do know that change begins by looking atrocities and tragedies in the face, not by sweeping them out of our sight.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Fu Lam Mum shutters temporarily in Mountain View
By Elena Kadvany | 2 comments | 1,680 views

What Are Your Gifts that Must Be Shared?
By Chandrama Anderson | 1 comment | 1,474 views


2017 guide to summer camps

Looking for something for the kids to do this summer, learn something new and have fun? The 2017 Summer Camp Guide features local camps for all ages and interests.

Find Camps Here