A man seen standing on the train tracks near the Santa Barbara Zoo was struck by a train and killed Sunday night. Police identified the victim as Jess Scaggs, a 21-year-old transient.
Danny MacLeith, a 20-year-old UCSB student and third-year Japanese major, was a passenger at the back of the train when the incident occurred.
“We were rolling along northbound, on time, just south of Milpas Street, and I heard a big rush of air like a brake,” MacLeith said. “We slowed down as fast as we could.”
MacLeith said he heard a 911 call through the train’s intercom system, and shortly afterward, the conductor addressed the passengers.
“He said he regretted to inform us that we had an apparent suicide,” MacLeith said. “I don’t think the magnitude of this person’s death really sank into anybody.”
The train’s conductor told the Santa Barbara Police Department that he saw the victim standing on the train tracks, apparently watching the train approach. Police say a preliminary investigation suggests the possibility of suicide.
The accident took place at 9:30 p.m. on a mile-long stretch of rail between Los Patos Way and South Milpas Street. Due to the length of time it took for the train to slow to a stop, investigators were unable to determine the exact location of the accident.
MacLeith said the train was delayed about an hour.
An investigation is ongoing, and police said they have not yet determined whether the victim was under the influence of alcohol or drugs.