Oscar Gonzalez, the 17-year-old killed when he was hit by a train Thursday in San Luis Obispo, had spent the day doing what he loved most — skateboarding and spending time with his friends.
Described as compassionate, honest and humorous by those who knew him, Gonzalez was a friend to many.
Gonzalez, who would have started his senior year at San Luis Obispo High School this fall, was killed when he was struck by an Amtrak train about 3:50 p.m. Thursday while trying to cross the tracks near Cal Poly.
Gonzalez and two friends were walking a well-used path leading from Murray Street to California Boulevard when the train, heading north, came up behind them.
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The path approaches the tracks from Murray Street before leading pedestrians onto the tracks, where they walk about 40 feet north before the path begins again.
It is often used as a shortcut by Cal Poly students and nearby residents to reach California Boulevard.
Police say the three friends were likely using this route when the train came up the tracks.
The two teenagers who walked just behind Gonzalez on the tracks heard the train coming and yelled for him to jump off the tracks as they jumped for safety.
But the train came fast, and Gonzalez was wearing headphones.
News of his death spread quickly among his friends — a close-knit group who skateboard together, take vacations together and hang out during and after school.
On Friday, they gathered at the Santa Rosa Skate Park to pay tribute to Gonzalez.
A white cross made of skateboards and a sign reading “RIP Oscar” were hung above a pyramid ramp where Gonzalez skated almost daily.
Friends left flowers and handwritten messages in his memory. Others skated through tears, stopping to hug one another when the emotion became overwhelming.
“He was truly a genuine individual,” friend Ky Huynh wrote in an e-mail. “He did things the way he wanted, lived life according to his dreams, not everyone else’s.”
Huynh added that Gonzalez “skated clean and hard” and once won first place in a street skating competition sponsored by the Coalition skate shop.
Gonzalez was known for two skating moves — the double kick flip and the air walk.
Rainer Staub, 17, arrived early at the San Luis Obispo skate park Friday, grasping flowers.
Staub said he and Gonzalez would spend hours just hanging out, skateboarding around town and talking.
It was a routine familiar to more than a dozen high school students who passed their days with him.
“I think that Oscar touches more people’s lives than anyone can really comprehend,” wrote friend Monique Jensen, 18, in an e-mail. “I feel that he has taught us all how to live life. Oscar was always happy, and always laughing. He always went with the flow, never had a complaint; he made the most out of any situation and always offered a helping hand.”
His family could not be reached Friday.
A benefit fund for Gonzalez’s family has been set up at Rabobank. Donations can be made for the next 90 days.