Gregory Plitt, the fitness model and reality TV star killed Saturday, was filming video for his website, trying to get action shots, when he tripped and was struck by an oncoming train, friends said.
“He just made a mistake,” his friend Warren Coulter said Monday.
Plitt, 37, was struck by a southbound train while filming about 4 p.m. just north of the Burbank Metrolink Station, police said.
Coulter was not at the site when the tragedy occurred but said he spoke to film crew members who were at the scene. He said Plitt was trying to get action photos and may have acted like Superman as he filmed a video for his website. The old saying says Superman is “more powerful than a locomotive.”
Plitt’s girlfriend, Christina Stejskal, said he was “just trying to get the best shot.”
“He wanted to push things to the limit,” said a weeping Stejskal in an interview Monday. “He’s just like Superman.”
Metrolink officials said Plitt and his film crew did not have permission to be on the commuter railroad’s right-of-way.
“He had no permit to be there,” said Jeff Lustgarten, a Metrolink spokesman. “We have a whole process for people to go through if they want to be on our right-of-way, especially for film crews.”
It is considered trespassing, a misdemeanor offense, to be on or near railroad tracks without the authorization of the railroad company, the operator or provisions of state and federal law.
Lustgarten called the accident “tragic on a lot of different levels.”
“Our hearts go out to Greg Plitt’s family and his friends,” he added.
Plitt had used the same stretch of Burbank railroad tracks for filming other fitness videos, lifting barbells and doing push-ups on the tracks.
Lustgarten said the Burbank station is located 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.
Burbank Police Sgt. Scott Meadows confirmed that Plitt was with a crew of two who were filming when the conductor blew the horn. Plitt did not react to the horn. He was struck by the train and pushed off the tracks.
Police interviewed the crew -- a man and woman -- and seized the video for evidence. The investigation is ongoing.
Coulter said Plitt, a West Point graduate, was featured in more than 250 magazines and rescued pit bulls.
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 films such as “Terminator Salvation” and “Grudge Match.”
Coulter said his friend had a fearless attitude toward life and 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 said.
Michael Ewing, a producer who was close friends with the reality TV star, said Plitt, a rock climber and avid skydiver, was “the most alive person” he’d ever met. He said Plitt’s 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.”
The Federal Railroad Administration said trespassing on railroad rights-of-way is the cause of the most rail-related deaths in the United States.
In Los Angeles and surrounding counties, about 30 people a year are struck and killed by Metrolink, Amtrak and freight trains, according to Lustgarten. Nationally, more than 400 people are killed a year and nearly as many are injured along rights-of-way. The vast majority of these deaths and injuries are preventable, federal officials say.
In one high-profile incident, a 27-year-old camera assistant was killed by a freight train in Georgia last year while on the set of the film “Midnight Rider.” Several other crew members were injured.
The incident triggered lawsuits and multiple investigations by state and federal authorities.
Last summer, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited the Pasadena-based film company for safety violations and proposed penalties of $74,900.