NM: Engineer Never Saw Bicyclist in Santa Fe Rail Runner Fatal

July 11--SANTA FE -- The engineer of northbound Rail Runner train never saw a bicyclist approaching when the train struck and killed the bike rider in June because of a "blind spot" in the engineer's cab, a Santa Fe Police department report concludes.

It's unknown why Joseph Salazar, 41, of Espanola, "did not hear or see the train approaching" northbound as he rode through the crossing, westbound along St. Michael's Drive near Calle Lorca on June 16, the report states.

Salazar was pronounced dead at the hospital. He carried no identification and was identified days later after photos were released showing religious items he was wearing.

An aunt told police that Salazar had been depressed because of the death of his mother in April, the police report says.

All train crossing warning signal lights, bells and street gates were working but the train, going 25 miles per hour, was not sounding its horn -- standard procedure as the train goes through Santa Fe -- and no emergency braking was applied because the engineer never saw Salazar coming, the report states.

According to the police report, Rail Runner officials said "that the engineer did not have the same point of view" as the train's camera that recorded video of the accident from the train. "The cab/car has another window that is next to the engineer's seat and there is a blind spot between the front and side window that would obstruct her view," the report said.

The front-view video shows Salazar continuing to pedal on the sidewalk on the north side of St. Mike's across the tracks without looking up before impact.

Another camera view shows Salazar about 3 feet from the tracks after the crash as a male is running toward him to render aid. The white baseball-style cap that Salazar wore is a few feet away. His last known address was in Albuquerque.

In April, Suzanne LeBeau, 60, of Santa Fe, an experienced bicyclist, was killed when she coasted in front a Rail Runner train where the tracks cross Zia Road.

Copyright 2014 - Albuquerque Journal, N.M.

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