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City of Berkeley Responsible For Hole In Fence That Man Passed Through, Leading To His Death

As it seems, more and more, cities and counties and states must take care of their roads, freeways, and right-of-ways, else they could be massively sued.

City of Berkeley Responsible For Hole In Fence That Man Passed Through, Leading To His Death - Daily Californian

After a man was killed by a train while trying to take a shortcut across the tracks Thursday, railroad investigators say the city of Berkeley was responsible for fixing a hole in the fence he intended to pass through.

While walking and talking on his cell phone, Berkeley resident Scott Slaughter, 31, was fatally struck at 8:15 a.m. by a Chicago-bound Amtrak train just east of the Berkeley station under the University Avenue overpass.

Instead of walking farther to a pedestrian crossing at Hearst Avenue, Slaughter attempted to cross two sets of tracks to pass through a hole cut in the fence on the other side, said officials at the Alameda County Coroner’s Office.

“He was on his way to Truitt & White lumberyard, where he worked,” said Deputy Sheriff Rene Gonzalez, who examined the scene. “In one of the lots there is a hole in the fence and he was heading to that shortcut.”

Drew McAdams, one of Slaughter’s coworkers, said the gap in the fence is the easiest way to get to work. But he said safer options are only about 50 feet away.

According to Gonzalez, some of the fence’s heavy iron bars have been cut at the bottom and wrenched from slots holding them at the top, forming a large gap that workers often pass through.

The case is being investigated by the Union Pacific Railroad police department. A company spokesperson denied any responsibility for the maintenance of the fence.

“This really is an unfortunate and tragic incident, but I just know that this is not our fence,” said spokesperson James Barnes, who said he thought it was in fact owned by the city of Berkeley.

City officials said Slaughter was trespassing on the tracks and workers should not have been using the hole.

“We are not sure who owns the fence, but once we figure this out the responsible party will act quickly after that,” said Mary Kay Clunies-Ross, spokesperson for the city manager’s office.

The hole in the fence acts as a thoroughfare for many of the Truitt & White workers, Gonzalez said, three of whom used it while he was at the scene following the incident.

Fences like the one at the Berkeley station are erected to safeguard the public and should never be dismantled by anyone, said Steve Kulm, a spokesperson for the Federal Railroad Administration.

Whoever is responsible for the fence should repair it and ensure that it is not disregarded further, Kulm said.

“I have seen news reports that claim the Truitt & White workers will continue to use the gap in the fence,” Kulm said. “This is just the wrong mentality entirely and I would like to see the fence repaired.”

McAdams said Slaughter will be sorely missed by everyone who knew him.

“He was an excellent gentleman and really took the time to make sure that people were taken care of,” he said.

Contact Sarah Morrison at smorrison@dailycal.org.
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