Cal Poly student killed by Amtrak train in SLO identified

Bouquets of flowers mark the site where Cal Poly student Thomas Stone was fatally hit by a train at Foothill Boulevard near California Boulevard on Tuesday.
Bouquets of flowers mark the site where Cal Poly student Thomas Stone was fatally hit by a train at Foothill Boulevard near California Boulevard on Tuesday. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

A 22-year-old man struck and killed by a northbound Amtrak train at a rail crossing in San Luis Obispo on Tuesday evening has been identified as a Cal Poly student.

The university identified the man as Thomas Tilton Stone of Vallejo, a senior business student from the Orfalea College of Business.

Investigators believe the death to be an accident.

Shortly before 5 p.m. Tuesday, Stone was crossing the tracks at Foothill and California boulevards near the Cal Poly campus when he was struck by the Amtrak train.

Police and firefighters responded to the scene and conducted life-saving efforts before taking Stone to a local hospital. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.

The San Luis Obispo Police Department said in a news release that witnesses reported seeing Stone wearing earbuds and looking down at his phone as he walked into the path of the northbound train. He reportedly did not respond to the crossing arms or the train’s horn.

Police say the investigation remained ongoing Wednesday night.

University President Jeffrey Armstrong issued a statement Wednesday afternoon, saying the Cal Poly community was “deeply saddened” by the incident and that “all of our campus community members — particularly those who walk or bicycle to and from campus — must be keenly aware of the proximity of train traffic.”

“In particular, the university takes very seriously the need to educate new campus community members about this safety concern,” the statement reads. “To that end, the university discusses safety around the nearby train tracks early in the (Week of Welcome) orientation process for all new students.”

The statement noted that several Cal Poly students were at the scene of the accident.

“We realize that many of you have been affected by the experience, and it’s important to know that we are here to support you,” Armstrong said in the statement. “We will come together as a community to remember Thomas this Friday, Feb. 19, at 4 p.m. in the University Union Plaza. All are welcome to attend this memorial service.”

Counseling services are available to students 24 hours a day at 756-2511, the statement said.

According to Tribune archives, Stone’s death marks the fourth pedestrian-versus-train death in San Luis Obispo since July 2010 and the third so far this year.

On Jan. 9, Aaron Matthew Wolf, 19, was killed on the railroad tracks east of Sweet Bay Lane in rural San Luis Obispo. The San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Coroner’s Office ruled his death a probable suicide, pending pathology and toxicology results, Sheriff’s Office spokesman Tony Cipolla said Wednesday.

On Jan. 4, Saralee Lua, 54, was struck by a train and killed on the railroad tracks near Tank Farm Road. The Sheriff’s Office said Lua was lying in between the tracks, not on them, and that her death was accidental.

In February of last year, a San Luis Obispo woman survived being hit on the tracks near Orcutt Road.

In July 2010, a 17-year-old teenage boy was hit and killed by an Amtrak train as he walked a well-used path about a quarter-mile south of where Stone was hit Tuesday. The teenager in that incident was wearing headphones, according to authorities.

After that death, Union Pacific installed fencing adjacent to the tracks along California Boulevard to prevent pedestrians and bicyclists from crossing at spots other than the designated locations.

San Luis Obispo is not alone in pedestrian deaths due to trains. In May 2013, Veronica Lynne Clancy, 59, was killed while walking on the tracks in Pismo Beach.