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Tragedy On Tracks
oak train
Burlington Northern Santa Fe police officer Gary Vernon gets statements from witnesses Todd Halkias, center, of Oakdale and Martin Castillo of Escalon following a fatal train vs. pedestrian crash at River and Santa Fe roads Friday afternoon. The incident occurred shortly before 2:45 p.m. and claimed the life of Ada Oosterman, 61, of Oakdale. Marg Jackson/The Leader

A midafternoon train vs. pedestrian incident along the Burlington-Northern Santa Fe tracks between Riverbank and Escalon on Friday, April 24 claimed the life of an Oakdale woman.

Authorities investigating the incident, which happened shortly before 2:45 p.m., said according to witness statements, the woman deliberately sat on the tracks and then laid down across them as the freight train approached, en route from Stockton to Oakdale. She was identified as Ada Oosterman, 61, of Oakdale and was pronounced dead at the scene.

Witnesses told BNSF Police Officer Gary Vernon that they saw the woman walking near the tracks and then sit down on the tracks when the freight train got close to the River Road crossing, off Santa Fe Road. Officials said the two-engine, 16-car train was traveling at about 30 mph and the conductor was unable to avoid striking the woman, though he applied the brakes as soon as he observed her on the tracks.

“She walked, sat down and just waited for the train,” said Escalon resident Martin Castillo, one of the eyewitnesses.

Oakdale resident Todd Halkias also witnessed the incident and said though the train wasn’t going very fast, he knew it wouldn’t be able to stop in time.

“It was a freaky situation,” Halkias said.

She parked her vehicle off River Road and then walked back to the tracks.

Oosterman’s husband Jacob survives her and they also have grown children in the area, including son Jake Oosterman and his wife Faith, who are Escalon residents and son Mark Oosterman and his wife Penney of Riverbank, with other family members nearby in Ripon, as well as out of state.

Train traffic was halted along the busy BNSF corridor while the investigation was conducted on Friday afternoon. Along with the railway police, agencies responding to the scene included the Escalon Police and Fire departments, Escalon Community Ambulance, and additional support units from the sheriff’s department and CHP.

Train conductor Randy Luckey, who said he has been on the job for about 20 years, said he has seen several of this type of incident and it’s always a tough situation for all involved.

Funeral services for Ada Oosterman are scheduled Thursday, April 30, graveside at Burwood Cemetery in Escalon at 9:30 a.m.