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Author Topic: Passenger Goes Missing from California Zephyr
notelvis
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Here's a story which I spotted on another board this morning. A retiree who went missing from the California Zephyr somewhere between Denver and Chicago.

Passenger Missing

--------------------
David Pressley

Advocating for passenger trains since 1973!

Climbing toward 5,000 posts like the Southwest Chief ascending Raton Pass. Cautiously, not nearly as fast as in the old days, and hoping to avoid premature reroutes.

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Gilbert B Norman
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While we all know who will be on tap for "heap big wampum" from this incident, that is inconsequential when compared to an older person who must learn "it's time".

Already I have a case of my Sister who would worry from the time I left to the time I arrived if I were to drive out to see her; so I fly. Now I have friends in Virginia who are so concerned to the extent my eyesight has deterioriated (I couldn't read my United boarding pass on their small computer screen and with some stuff they had in front of it to keep me from getting close enough; I wasn't sure at the hotel if their printer was working and for all I know you get only one "crack at it"), they'd worry if I drove out to see them (I simply don't drive at night anymore).

But hopefully something will tell me when "it's time" to sell the car (since it is quite new, take a beating on depreciation) and turn in my license (or maybe consider eye surgery), and it may be more difficult in that I live on my own - and am not about to live with anyone else.

My Father had an incident at age 87 when he was intending to drive from Lighthouse Point FL to St Augustine to see one of his Yalie classmates, but he blew the exit and ended up in Sanford NC (he had a customer there formerly in Long Island City). Somehow someone found my Sister and she rescued him.

Serious stuff, volks.

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Judy McFarland
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After reading the article, I am uncertain how the family knew he was confused. Did he tell them that in. Cell phone call? If so, could they have called someone to alert the crew that the passenger might be in trouble? Or did a crew member who may have talked to him notice confusion during a stop.
Since I am the same age as this elderly passenger & still travel around the US alone on trains, I wonder his traveling alone by train was wise. Did his family have concerns about his traveling alone for several days.
Like Mr. Norman, I am self-censoring a lot of my behavior these days. I don't drive at night or in the rain. I won't drive through Chicago to see my daughter in Indiana, but take the train. And I have offered to make a video of me agreeing to give up my car keys if the kids tell me it's time (so I can convince my future self).
I'd move into senior housing and/or closer to my daughter, but I can't afford to give my house away. I don't plan to be like my aunt who totaled 2 cars before finally conceding she couldn't see to drive, even only 1/2 mile to a grocery store.

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My new "default" station (EKH) has no baggage service or QuikTrak machine, but the parking is free! And the NY Central RR Museum is just across the tracks (but not open at Amtrak train times. . ..)

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DeeCT
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GBN,
I fail to see how Amtrak can be held responsible for this man disappearing.(While I sympathize with what the family is going through now ... why on earth did they allow him to travel alone?)

Like others here, I too have curtailed my night driving due to poor night vision.(Daytime I am fine, but I long ago gave up on Interstates.) Since I retired I no longer drive on snowy or icy roads. House is well stocked, so no need to leave the house in bad weather.

I call myself lucky to come from a long line of women who reached the end of life with their wits still intact. (If I end up in the Home for the Bewildered it will be for medical not mental reasons.)

Dee (who is still enjoying these Golden years.)

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notelvis
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I am curious what happened - Did the passenger step off the train at a smoke stop station and disappear? (remember folks - the train didn't leave you - YOU left the train.)

Did he let himself out while the train held in a siding? Did he step off the train while it was moving? Did some other passenger 'kidnap' him.

There are only a finite number of possibilities.... most of them not good.

--------------------
David Pressley

Advocating for passenger trains since 1973!

Climbing toward 5,000 posts like the Southwest Chief ascending Raton Pass. Cautiously, not nearly as fast as in the old days, and hoping to avoid premature reroutes.

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George Harris
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I realize that in a few years I am going to have to go to daytime only for anyplace unfamiliar and probably ultimately to daytime only anywhere. Congested urban areas are already aproching verboten.

How people react ot losing their abilities varies wildly, and I would suspect the underlying personality and attitude that has always been there has a lot to do with it. When my father retired one of the things he said was, "I no longer have to be nice to people I don't like." But the reality was that he was always a kind and considerate man and that did not change, it was just the people that were problems to deal with in business he could now avoid. When his eyesight began to get bad, he quit driving at night and ccurtailed himself to within a couple of miles of home before stopping altogether. By contrast on the other side of the family, my wife's step father became less rational with age, tended to drive faster and more recklessly until one of my wife's brothers took all the car keys. Along with some other things, they tended to say, "Thank God he's not a blood relative."

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RR4me
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This is really tough for families. My dad suffered from Alzhiemers; while taking him to a family re-union in 2008 on the CZ, as he got tired later each day, he would get more confused, asking "Who's driving? Is Rick (a brother) driving?" There is no way we would have put him on a train and expected the crew to watch over him. Soemtimes it's tough for the family to accept, too, but I will be extremely upset if Amtrak has to pay in any way for this.
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notelvis
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An update - new information leads the family to believe that Mr. Dowd may have fallen from the California Zephyr sometime before 11:00pm Thursday night. The search is now focusing on eastern Colorado and Western Nebraska.

Sadly, now, this is a far more likely scenario than having just wandered away from the train at a station stop.

Bay Area News Update

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David Pressley

Advocating for passenger trains since 1973!

Climbing toward 5,000 posts like the Southwest Chief ascending Raton Pass. Cautiously, not nearly as fast as in the old days, and hoping to avoid premature reroutes.

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DeeCT
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and sadly David a more likely less positive outcome. (that area if I recall is very rural/sparsely populated).
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sbalax
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Isn't that door secured somehow?

Frank in sunny and warm SBA

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ehbowen
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quote:
Originally posted by sbalax:
Isn't that door secured somehow?

Frank in sunny and warm SBA

After some horrific accidents in the 19th century where passengers trapped inside their cars burned to death, in American (at least) practice it has been accepted that the lesser of evils is to leave egress doors unlocked and operable by passengers at all times. The downside is the occasional incident such as this one.

--------------------
--------Eric H. Bowen

Stop by my website: Streamliner Schedules - Historic timetables of the great trains of the past!

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TwinStarRocket
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Strange coincidence but I just got off the Zephyr this morning (GSC-OSC), and I was looking at how one could open the sleeper door to the outside. There appear to be two handles: one at the top right and one about waist high. It was not obvious how they worked. And do they not have some sort of alarm or light to signal a door is open (at least while in motion)?

If the missing man did not open the door himself, it would likely not be possible to wander off at a stop between Denver and Omaha. The sleeper car attendant opens the door and never leaves it.

Why could they not easily have an alarm that only Amtrak personnel know how to disable when they control the doors?

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SilverStar092
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It is very hard for someone who is not well versed in opening a car door to do so. The door is fairly heavy and after throwing the two latches mentioned above, you have to step back a bit to allow the door to swing inward. If he did fall off the train, I'd be more inclined to think the door was somehow not secured properly before this man got there. That would be possible if another passenger opened it during one of the smaller overnight station stops then failed to secure it properly with no crew present. Unfortunately, since Superliner egress is on the lower level, an unlatched door could escape detection by crew members at night since you don't pass by the exit door when walking the train.
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notelvis
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Given that the missing passenger was a career firefighter, I would suggest that he was well versed in opening many types of doors..... he perhaps had even been trained to open doors (inside and out) on any number of transit vehicles. Buses, subway, light rail, perhaps even commuter rail and Amtrak cars.

Again...... not to be argumentative...... just thinking that Mr. Dowd was probably better equipped to figure out how to open the lower door of a superliner sleeping car himself than the casual passenger might be.

--------------------
David Pressley

Advocating for passenger trains since 1973!

Climbing toward 5,000 posts like the Southwest Chief ascending Raton Pass. Cautiously, not nearly as fast as in the old days, and hoping to avoid premature reroutes.

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TwinStarRocket
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Good point, David. We here at Trainweb should form a detective team and Mr. Kisor can write our story.

So, assuming he opened the door, we might guess his confusion would not prevent him from noticing the train was moving. But he could have exited at a stop unnoticed, even from the opposite side from the station. Quite a jump, but maybe not for a fireman.

Of course, if you have seen enough movies you know people climb up to the top of trains quite often.

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Geoff Mayo
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A friend of mine, staying in a hotel, in bed with not too many clothes on, wandered to the bathroom during the night to take a leak. He was only aware of his surroundings when the bedroom door slammed shut and he was in the corridor. Just the wrong door!

--------------------
Geoff M.

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TwinStarRocket
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I was on #5 on the 13th going in the opposite direction through Iowa the same night the gentleman turned up missing on #6. When I got on at 8:45pm in Osceola, they told me dinner could be had if I immediately rushed to the diner. I became disoriented in the dark and went the wrong direction. You really can't tell which way the train is moving in the dark. I thought a light was burned out in the next car because it was dark on the other side, but still I kept pushing hard on the door and it wouldn't open. Then I realized I was on the last car and the door wouldn't open because it lead outside. We old people do embarrassing things.
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Ocala Mike
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quote:
Originally posted by TwinStarRocket:


We old people do embarrassing things.


I'll second that. I live in a small mobile home, and the other night the power went out briefly while I was watching tv in the living room. I had to navigate from the living room to the kitchen (15 feet?) in the pitch dark to get a flashlight, and I got totally disoriented. Fortunately, I stepped on my cat (acting unwittingly as a "telltale") whose loud shriek saved me from bumping into the sharp corner of an island counter we have. I gave him some extra Temptations for his help.
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Ocala Mike
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Here's what Amtrak just posted on Facebook:

"To all of those expressing concern about Mr. Charles Dowd, we want to assure you that the Amtrak Police Department is continuing to conduct an active investigation to locate a passenger that has been reported missing. APD has met with family members of Charles Dowd who was reported missing after he did not arrive in Chicago while traveling from Emeryville to Montreal. The Amtrak Police Department is working closely with local police departments along the route of the train, as well as the BNSF Railroad Police Department to locate the missing person."

--------------------
Ocala Mike

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Henry Kisor
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You are saying that I should write a story about Old People Being Old People? Hell, I am living that story!

Chapter One: The car keys are always in the last place you look.

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TwinStarRocket
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The Facebook page created to promote the search for Charlie Dowd has a lot of negative comments about Amtrak. There is a lot of ignorance, such as "maybe he just got on the wrong train at a stop". Charlie's son called Amtrak police "less than helpful". People are saying we should remember this at election time(?). Psychics are offering help.
http://www.facebook.com/MissingPersonCharlieDowd

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Ocala Mike
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quote:
Originally posted by Henry Kisor:


The car keys are always in the last place you look.


I'm always amused by that "last place you look" line.

Of course, we always find the missing item in the last place we look. After all, why would you keep looking after you find it?

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notelvis
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When true simplicity is gained, the last place you look will always be the first!

--------------------
David Pressley

Advocating for passenger trains since 1973!

Climbing toward 5,000 posts like the Southwest Chief ascending Raton Pass. Cautiously, not nearly as fast as in the old days, and hoping to avoid premature reroutes.

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Henry Kisor
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Of course, it's a given that one looks in quite a number of places before arriving at that last place, and that as one gets older, the number of places one must look in grows exponentially. So does the number of f-words expended aft.
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notelvis
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quote:
Originally posted by TwinStarRocket:
The Facebook page created to promote the search for Charlie Dowd has a lot of negative comments about Amtrak. There is a lot of ignorance, such as "maybe he just got on the wrong train at a stop". Charlie's son called Amtrak police "less than helpful". People are saying we should remember this at election time(?). Psychics are offering help.
http://www.facebook.com/MissingPersonCharlieDowd

I've seen some of these comments and have stopped looking. One comment which I saw somewhere was from the Sheriff of an eastern Colorado county. In effect, he said that his deputies had searched the 40 miles of BNSF track in his county and had found nothing..... and at a time like this for the family, finding nothing was, understandibly, not enough.

It is a heart-wrenching story and I believe it will ultimately lead to a (maybe not very friendly) review of how Amtrak doors are, or are not, secured from within.

--------------------
David Pressley

Advocating for passenger trains since 1973!

Climbing toward 5,000 posts like the Southwest Chief ascending Raton Pass. Cautiously, not nearly as fast as in the old days, and hoping to avoid premature reroutes.

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DeeCT
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Sad news .... just been announced that body has been found. Spotted by BNSF worker near tracks in Nebraska.

Sad for family who have done everything they could to find him.

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TwinStarRocket
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Yes, this is very sad. The press release says he was found "in Haigler, NE". This is a town in the middle of a siding. It makes me wonder if he got out while the train was stopped, rather than "fell from a moving train" as earlier speculated.
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smitty195
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http://www.ktvu.com/news/news/missing-san-mateo-man-former-sf-firefighter-found-/nSHhM/

Not really a surprise. It was just a matter of when he would be found, and where.

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notelvis
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quote:
Originally posted by smitty195:
http://www.ktvu.com/news/news/missing-san-mateo-man-former-sf-firefighter-found-/nSHhM/

Not really a surprise. It was just a matter of when he would be found, and where.

I agree.

From the moment news broke that another passenger had found a door in that sleeper ajar around 11:00pm, this was the expected outcome.

My sympathies are with the family and I'm beginning to wonder if I'll be able to realize for myself when it's no longer a good idea to go off riding trains alone lest I do something similar to my loved ones.

--------------------
David Pressley

Advocating for passenger trains since 1973!

Climbing toward 5,000 posts like the Southwest Chief ascending Raton Pass. Cautiously, not nearly as fast as in the old days, and hoping to avoid premature reroutes.

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MontanaJim
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i think amtrak is going to have to examine trying to make their car doors more secure. i recall a college kid falling out of a train earlier this year too. Of course he was likely drunk but still.
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George Harris
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Before we get overly paranoid over this, go back and read Mr. Bowen's post:
quote:
After some horrific accidents in the 19th century where passengers trapped inside their cars burned to death, in American (at least) practice it has been accepted that the lesser of evils is to leave egress doors unlocked and operable by passengers at all times. The downside is the occasional incident such as this one.
Also, as has been pointed out, the doors are not really that easy to open, but as a retired firefighter opening doors with various forms of securement would be part of his normal.

We do have to seek a balance here. You can't protect everything against everything, particularly when some of these methods of protection are mutually exclusive.

I think doors that can be opened are the better solution. Can you imagine the uproar and lawsuits that would follow if one of these methods of securement that have been bandied about failed to release when needed and trapped people inside to die?

As an aside: Quite a few years ago on my one long distance train ride in China, I watched the following action: As we pulled out of the stations along the way, the car attendent stood in the open doorway holding a salute until we were beyond the platform, then stepped back, closed the door, and locked it with a key. That did not give me any warm and fuzzy feeling.

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TwinStarRocket
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With today's electronics, certainly a simple audio alarm (with a possible signal to the conductor) could be devised to detect when either door latch is being opened. Any Amtrak personnel could have the means to disable it when they are at the door.
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Henry Kisor
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This kind of thing, sadly, has not been uncommon on Amtrak. Back in the 1990s a CZ train chief told me about difficulties he had had with an elderly woman suffering from Alzheimer's who kept trying to go out to her garden. Her husband was an alcoholic and no help keeping his wife under control.

Finally he locked the outside door to her sleeper despite misgivings.

A few days later he discovered that two days later she managed to get out to her garden from a CL moving at 70 mph.

There is probably no easy solution to this kind of problem.

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RRRICH
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My sympathies also to the family of Mr. Dowd. What I don't understand, however, is that if he was traveling east on Train #6, Haigler, NE is actually about as far across the state from Omaha as is possible while still being in Nebraska, yet the newspaper report stated that he was last seen by a a conductor near Omaha. Haigler is almost to the Colorado border.
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Gilbert B Norman
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Haigler, NE; population 158.
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DeeCT
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RRRICH

Evening time .... after dinner. Nite time when not seeing a passenger would not seem odd.

Posts: 460 | From: North Central CT | Registered: May 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
RRRICH
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I'm not sure what your point is, Dee -- if the passenegr disappeared at Haigler, yes, that would be after dinner in the evening. But for a conductor see him at Omaha, that would have to be early the following morning --
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DeeCT
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It would appear that the conductor was mistaken. (Either as to location or whether it was indeed Mr Dowd).
Posts: 460 | From: North Central CT | Registered: May 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
TwinStarRocket
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Chalk the Omaha thing off to the usual bad media reporting. If they had considered geography and train direction, they should have known the conductor was mistaken.
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Henry Kisor
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But if the conductor's statement that he saw Dowd at Omaha was made and reported several days before the body was found at Haigler, how can this be "the usual bad media reporting"?
Posts: 2236 | From: Evanston, Ill. and Ontonagon, Mich. | Registered: Feb 2007  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
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