"All of a sudden she wasn't there. We didn't see or hear the train coming," said Nicole Perez, 17, who said Monday that she was one of several people "within arm's distance" of Marlene Aguirre when the train hit. "She was the most amazing person I've ever known. And I love her so much."
The Richmond High School students were hanging out near railroad tracks by Pinole Shores Park when Aguirre was struck by the passenger train headed to Martinez at 11:36 p.m. Friday.
Aguirre's relatives and friends gathered for a community event in front of Richmond High on Monday, saying they are seeking answers and urging more safety precautions around railroad tracks.
"Nothing, absolutely nothing, has been done to make this area safe, to cordon this area off," said Rosa Chavarria, Aguirre's oldest sister. "It's alarming to me that my sister has died this way and nothing has been done to prevent other deaths. We don't want this tragedy to befall another family."
Chavarria visited the site of the accident and said the only thing preventing people from coming close to the tracks is "a graffiti-covered sign that says, 'Caution, fast moving trains.' "
Chavarria also said authorities, in their response to the accident, treated her sister like "just another Mexican girl destined to have no future, in a place she should not have been."
As of Monday evening, no
"There are still a lot of unanswered questions for us," Chavarria said. "We've received scarce information, and we're just waiting to hear about the investigation and what happened. There's been a lack of communication."
A local Amtrak spokeswoman referred questions about the investigation to a Union Pacific spokesman. That spokesman referred questions back to Amtrak.
Aaron Hunt, another Union Pacific spokesman, said the company does not share information about its investigations with the media. He said Amtrak would contact the family.
"We take safety really seriously, and we're always saddened when there's a situation like this," Hunt said. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family."
At Richmond High on Monday, dozens of students and family members sobbed and hugged, shared photos of Aguirre and left messages of love for her. Aguirre's relatives said she enjoyed writing poetry and singing in the choir, and had plans to attend college next year with her cousin. Lately, she was busy making plans for prom.
Aguirre, the youngest of six siblings, was an aunt to several young nieces and nephews, her sister said.
"She was just full of life, brightened and cheered any room she walked into," Chavarria said. "This is so tremendously devastating."
Aguirre was an organ and tissue donor, said Chavarria, who invited a representative from the California Transplant Donor Network to discuss organ donations with the crowd Monday.
The family also has asked for donations to help with Aguirre's funeral costs. Those can be made at any Chase Bank in Richmond, to account number 2927238200.
Contact Shelly Meron at 510-243-3578. Follow her at Twitter.com/shellymeron.