Santa Clara VTA begins process of mourning victims

May 27, 2021
The nine lives lost in the May 26 attack will be honored during a vigil at San Jose City Hall and an event planned by the authority with input from the families of the victims.

Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) officials gathered for a press conference May 27 to share additional information about their nine co-workers who lost their lives in an attack on its Guadalupe Light Rail Yard early in the morning on May 26.

Chairman of the Santa Clara VTA Board of Directors Glenn Hendricks started the press conference by saying the day was about people. He noted he had been in contact will all the victims’ families.

“All are in pain, but we are here to help. We are grieving together and want to do everything we can to support each other,” said Hendricks.

He then read the names of the victims and shared a bit more about their employment with Santa Clara VTA.

Abdolvahab Alaghmandan, 63, was a 20-year employee with the authority and worked as a substation maintainer.

Adrian Balleza, 29, and the youngest of those killed, started as a bus operator trainee in 2014 before becoming a maintenance worker and light-rail operator.

Alex Ward Fritch, 49, worked as a substation maintainer.

Jose Dejesus Hernandez III, 35, started working at the transit agency in 2012 as a transit mechanic, then electro mechanic and then as a substation maintainer.

Lars Kepler Lane, 63, joined Santa Clara VTA in 2001 as an electro mechanic before becoming an overhead line worker.

Michael Joseph Rudometkin, 40, started as a mechanic in 2013 before becoming an electro mechanic and then an overhead line worker. Rudometkin was one of six overhead line workers to graduate in December 2018 following a two-year apprenticeship. 

Paul Delacruz Megia, 42, started as a bus operator trainee in 2002 and then served as a light-rail operator before being promoted to transportation supervisor, transit division supervisor and, ultimately, as assistant superintendent in service management.

Taptejdeep Singh, 36, began his career at the agency as a bus operator trainee in 2014 and then became a light-rail operator.

Timothy Michael Romo, 49, had more than 20 years of experience as an overhead line worker.

Acting General Manager/CEO and General Counsel of the Santa Clara VTA Evelynn Tran shared the “utterly heart wrenching” experience of seeing families learn their loved ones had been killed.

“Some of us get training on what to do in a shooting, but not the aftermath,” said Tran. “Today, I want to say the names of the people we lost. I want to honor them, and I want to mourn.”

Perhaps the most emotionally raw moment came from the superintendent of the Guadalupe Yard, Naunihal Singh, who shared an office with Paul Megia and had daily interactions with Adrian Balleza and Taptejdeep Singh.

“I don’t know what kind of poker face I can put on as a leader. I’m going through a lot of confused emotions. I’m angry, I’m sad, I’m lost for words, at the same time trying to find a reason why,” said Singh.

Santa Clara VTA pointed those interested in contributing support to the families of the victims to two resources: Working Partnerships USA or the Amalgamated Transit Union Disaster Relief Fund.

A vigil is being planned for members of the community on Thursday, May 27 at 6 p.m., at San Jose City Hall Plaza. Santa Clara VTA plans to hold an additional event at a later time following input from the families of the victims.  

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.