He was strong and confident, a West Point grad, former Army Ranger and TV bodybuilder with rippling arms and washboard abs.
But when Greg Plitt tripped while running along a Metrolink track in Burbank on Saturday, he could do nothing to avoid being struck and killed by an oncoming commuter train.
Although police are still investigating, friends say Plitt was filming video for his workout, nutrition and motivational website, trying to get action shots.
"He just made a mistake," said Warren Coulter, his friend.
Coulter was not at the site when the tragedy occurred but said he spoke to film crew members who were. He said Plitt may have tried to act like Superman, who in the 1950s-era TV show was said to be "faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive."
Plitt always "wanted to push things to the limit," his girlfriend, Christina Stejskal, said as she wept during an interview Monday. "He's just like Superman."
George Gregory Plitt Jr., 37, was struck by a southbound train about 4 p.m. just north of the Burbank Metrolink station, police said.
A train hitting people or cars is nothing new in the Los Angeles region, where most tracks run at street level. About 30 people a year are killed by Metrolink, Amtrak or freight trains. Many are acts of suicide, while others are drivers trying to race through crossings or pedestrians who can't hear the horns or misjudge the train's speed.
"Unsafe behavior along the tracks is a problem we talk about all the time," said Jeff Lustgarten, a Metrolink spokesman.
But Plitt's death was different. He had used the same stretch of Burbank track for filming other fitness videos that captured him lifting barbells and doing push-ups on the rails. In one segment, he performed box jumps as a Metrolink train passed behind him.
Railroad officials said Plitt and the two members of his film crew did not have permission to be on or near the commuter line's tracks. It is considered trespassing, a misdemeanor offense, to be on railroad rights-of-way without authorization.
"He had no permit to be there," Lustgarten said. "We have a whole process for people to go through if they want to be on our right-of-way, especially for film crews."
Metrolink's permit procedures include safety briefings and — depending on the circumstances, such as being on the right-of-way — flagmen to warn of approaching trains.
"Our hearts go out to Greg Plitt's family and his friends," Lustgarten said. His death is "tragic on a lot of different levels."
Coulter said Plitt, who was also an actor and model, was featured in more than 250 magazines. He was the star of the Bravo reality show "Work Out" and appeared on the soap opera "Days of Our Lives," as well as in the films "Terminator Salvation" and "Grudge Match."
Coulter said his friend had an attitude toward life that "there was nothing he couldn't do." That's why Plitt's death came as a shock to his many friends and fans, he added.
Michael Ewing, a producer who was close friends with the reality TV star, said Plitt, a rock climber and avid sky diver, was "the most alive person" he'd ever met. He said Plitt's lean and buffed body was the model for the ultra-fit Dr. Manhattan in the 2009 film "Watchmen."
"He was fearless," Ewing said. "That's why it's so sad, but he could not outrun this last thing."
Lustgarten said the Burbank station is on a stretch of track where trains travel at more moderate speeds because there is a string of stations in that area.
According to Metrolink, the train's engineer saw the film crew, sounded his horn and applied the emergency brakes.
The Federal Railroad Administration said trespassing on railroad rights-of-way is the leading cause of rail-related deaths in the United States. Nationally, more than 400 people are killed annually and nearly as many are injured. The vast majority of these deaths and injuries are preventable, federal officials say.