James Salazar has already experienced six incidents—five of them fatal—in 14 years on the railroad. He comes from a family of trainmen. His father is an engineer with Amtrak’s Sunset Limited, traveling between Los Angeles and New Orleans, and his grandfather was a brakeman with Southern Pacific. Salazar started as a conductor on Amtrak’s Surfliner, Coast Starlight, and Southwest Chief routes. His first fatality occurred south of Santa Barbara. Salazar was inside the train when the emergency brakes went on and the train ground to a halt. “I just hit a lady,” the engineer told him. It was Salazar’s job as conductor to check on her. “She was a crumpled heap under the rails,” he says. “The wheel had run over her head and popped it. Her face was still intact, but there was no bone structure in it. It looked like a rubber mask lying on the ground.”
- End of the line, Los Angeles Magazine. Charles Fleming
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