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Trains Kill Pedestrian, Motorist

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Two people died Monday after they were hit by commuter trains--one of them a man who apparently deliberately stepped in front of an oncoming train, the other a motorist who crashed through a crossing gate and into the path of another train.

Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies said Joseph Coutee, 51, of Los Angeles parked his pickup truck in the 1800 block of Willowbrook Avenue in the Compton area about 9:30 a.m. They said he climbed over a five-foot wrought-iron fence and stood on the tracks--arms folded across his chest and hands clenched in fists--facing a northbound Blue Line train that approached about 50 m.p.h.

The engineer blew the train’s horn and applied the brakes, but was unable to stop in time, investigators said.

Coutee, whose body was hurled 20 feet, was pronounced dead at the scene. In a note to “loved ones” found beside his body, Coutee said he had suffered “setbacks” in recent weeks and did not wish to go on living.

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About an hour and a half earlier, an 83-year-old Downey man was killed when he apparently failed to notice the flashing red lights on a railroad crossing gate in the City of Industry, smashed his car through the barrier and was struck by a Metrolink train.

The driver, whose name was not released, was heading south on Rose Hills Road when he realized too late that the gate was coming down, officials said. The man slammed on his brakes at the last moment, they said, but the car crashed through the gate and came to rest on the tracks in front of the train, which was approaching at 73 m.p.h.

Witnesses said the train struck the car as the driver was fumbling with the gearshift in an apparent attempt to back the auto off the tracks. The impact hurled the car 500 feet.

The 325 train passengers were transferred to buses and taken to Los Angeles.

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“The engineer was doing exactly what he was supposed to be doing, and the gates were doing exactly what they were supposed to be doing,” said Richard Stanger, Metrolink executive director.


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