PayPal exec killed by train on Menlo Park tracks | March 14, 2012 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


News - March 14, 2012

PayPal exec killed by train on Menlo Park tracks

by Gennady Sheyner and Sandy Brundage

The man struck by a train in Menlo Park on Friday was Eric Salvatierra, a 39-year-old Palo Alto resident, according to the San Mateo County Coroner's Office.

A married father of three young daughters, Mr. Salvatierra worked at PayPal as vice president for customer advocacy and operational excellence. He had also served as vice president and CFO at Skype, which like PayPal is owned by eBay. His 14 years at the three companies included working as eBay's first vice president for site management and fraud prevention, according to eBay CEO John Donahoe.

He volunteered on the board of directors for Peninsula Bridge, a nonprofit dedicated to creating academic opportunities for students from low-income communities, and with other nonprofits.

Mr. Salvatierra lived in Palo Alto with his wife, Meredith Ackley, whom he met as a camp counselor in college. The couple had three children, aged 3, 8 and 10, according to an email sent by Mr. Donahoe to eBay employees.

The email praised Mr. Salvatierra, one of the company's longest-serving employees. Mr. Donahoe said his "tireless and passionate commitment to every task and his loyalty to the company were a hallmark of Eric's tenure at eBay."

He wrote that Mr. Salvatierra's many gifts included an "ability to bring out the best in all of us and compel his colleagues to be better employees and better people."

Saying that Mr. Salvatierra was a unique and special colleague who was loved and admired by all, Mr. Donahoe wrote: "For all of us who had the privilege of knowing and working with Eric, we will remember and miss his wit, intelligence, and joy of life both professionally and personally. Our deepest sympathies and thoughts are with Meredith and the girls. Our hearts go out to them for the sudden loss of such a beloved, valued and respected husband, father, friend and colleague."

The Friday collision occurred at about 9:30 a.m. on the tracks near Ravenswood Avenue, according to Caltrain. People at the scene commented that Mr. Salvatierra had been seen with a silver road bike and helmet. Describing the scene, an agency representative said that the speed of the train at the time of collision was irrelevant because of its massive weight.

In his email, the eBay CEO wrote that Mr. Salvatierra had suffered a "debilitating mental illness" that prompted him to take a leave of absence last year.

It also noted that in recent months the couple found support through the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a national nonprofit that provides education on mental-health issues, and that the family is now receiving grief counseling from KARA, a Palo Alto-based organization.

Funeral services have not yet been announced; the widow has asked that support go to both KARA and the National Alliance on Mental Illness, as two organizations that work to abolish the stigma of mental illness. Mr. Donahoe said the company would make contributions to the organizations in Mr. Salvatierra's memory.

The San Mateo County coroner will make the final determination of the cause of death, and investigators continue to piece together what happened. This was the fourth death on the railroad's right-of-way this year, according to Caltrain. Last year there were 16 fatalities.

"No matter what the circumstances, it is always regrettable when a life is lost," said Caltrain spokeswoman Tasha Bartholomew in an email. "Caltrain reminds everyone to be safe around train tracks. Caltrain also would like to thank our passengers for their patience as we deal with these sad incidents."

Over the years, Caltrain has installed no trespassing signs and signs listing a crisis hotline number every 500 feet along the 55-mile railroad to try to reduce deaths.


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