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Fourth train-related death prompts safety survey
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A 26-year-old man walking home from a birthday celebration was struck and killed by a passing freight train Sunday morning in Turlock.The deceased was identified as Miguel Sanchez of Keyes. Sanchez had been walking along the railroad tracks in the area of Fulkerth Road and Front Street around 3:30 a.m. when he was hit, said Turlock Police Detective Michael Parmley.The circumstances around Sanchez’s death remain unclear, though Parmley said there were no signs of foul play. The accident was called in by the Union Pacific conductor on the train.Just as befuddled by the death are Sanchez’s family and friends who described him as “a man with a heart of gold” and an adventuresome fellow.“He had one of those infectious personalities that could make everyone around him smile,” said Sarah Montes, a friend of Sanchez.Judi Nield had been part of a group celebrating with Sanchez at Wellington’s Pub and Restaurant, hours before his death. Sanchez had been drinking and decided not to drive home. He turned down a ride from his friends, opting instead to walk to his parents’ Turlock home, Nield said.“He said it was a nice night and that he wanted to take a walk,” Nield said.She said Sanchez was not intoxicated to the point that he couldn’t take care of himself. She said he was steady on his feet and was not slurring his words. He initially started walking southbound along the tracks, but at some point changed direction because his body was found north of Wellington’s.“He must have decided to walk to his Keyes home,” Nield said.Sanchez’s friends reject any idea that he may have been suicidal.“He was a man passionate about life,” Nield said.Sanchez was a 2001 graduate of Turlock High School, where he was a football standout. His friends said he loved sports, especially fishing, snowboarding and golfing. He also loved traveling with his wife Amy.The train that struck Sanchez was not equipped with surveillance video, Parmley said.The maximum speed for trains passing through town is 50 mph.This is the fourth train-related death to happen in an eight month period along a four mile stretch of tracks in Turlock. The other three have all been ruled suicides. The number of incidences has prompted the railroad safety division of the California Public Utilities Commission to launch a survey of the area.A railroad survey will entail an investigator collecting and reviewing all the known facts from the incidences, said CPUC spokesman Andrew Kotch. The investigator will be looking for railroad compliance with all federal and state regulations. They may make recommendations to the railroad, local government agencies and private landowners on ways to improve safety. Kotch said such surveys take about 60 days to complete.To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.