64-year-old Charles Isaacson was driving his 1998 Honda on Sept. 15 when he attempted, with the rest of the right-of-way traffic, to cross a section of Caltrain railroad tracks. The cars in front of him stopped to yield for an oncoming fire engine, and the train gates came down, trapping Isaacson. A few moments later, Isaacson’s car was struck by an oncoming train. He was killed in the impact.
According to reports, the train had been traveling at approximately 60 miles per hour at the time of impact. From the time Charles became stuck on the tracks to the impact, there was no way the train could have stopped given the speed it was traveling, the reports say, going on to add that the moment the gates came down, the situation was irrecoverable.
Donald Isaacson, Charles’ father, has filed a number of claims related to the accident. In particular, he has alleged that improper track design was a contributing factor. He argues that the specific setup of the tracks in that location contributed to his son’s death by forming a “trap” that couldn’t be escaped, and was therefore unsafe to begin with.
The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors rejected one of Donald’s claims, which is merely the first step in what is sure to be a long legal process. If the other agencies named in Isaacson’s claims make similar rejections, the ground has been laid for a lawsuit to be filed at a future date.
The groups named in the claims include Caltrain, San Mateo County, SamTrans, Redwood City and the engineer of the train that struck Charles’ car. The claims against the city and county were filed because it is possible that they had a hand in designing and maintaining the lights and signals at the crossing. Isaacson’s claims are for unlimited compensation to account for the loss of his son’s financial support.