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Scholar Killed In Vista Point Train Accident Identified

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s office has released the identity of victim fatally injured in Gaviota train accident.

The victim has been identified as 26-year-old Mingyue Yuan, a Chinese visiting scholar at the University of California Santa Barbara.

Santa Barbara County investigators worked with diplomats from China in the aftermath of a fatal train accident.

Yuan was struck by a train and thrown from a railroad trestle near Vista Point on the Gaviota Coast. She was part of a group of four people who walked out on the railroad bridge to take sunset pictures of the ocean.

When he first saw the group, an engineer on board a southbound Amtrak train sounded the horn and hit the brakes. The group tried to outrun the train, but only one of them made it off the trestle to safety.

In addition to the fatality, another man was critically injured and a woman received minor injuries. The one man who was able to get off the trestle in time was not hurt.

Administrators at UC Santa Barbara have confirmed three members of that group were visiting scholars on campus. The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s office confirmed Yuan was part of the UCSB scholar group visiting from China.

The accident happened just after 6:00 p.m. Saturday night near Vista Point, a popular spot on Highway 101 where people pull over to take photos of the ocean.

Train tracks are private property, with “no trespassing” painted on the rails, but there is no signage to warn people away. Paths at the scene cut through brush and lead from the highway pullout to the trestle, which has an unobstructed view of the ocean. Another bridge alongside does allow pedestrian traffic but the trestle partially blocks the ocean view.

Santa Barbara County firefighters were among the first responders to the scene Saturday night, and stress it is difficult for people to hear an oncoming locomotive.

“Trains these days are a lot more quiet than they used to be. The train was coming and there was a slight curve. It came around and the engineer sounded horn and applied the brakes. At that point, it became a foot race and sadly the train won,” said firefighter Mike Eliason.

Police officers from the Union Pacific Railroad spent hours on Sunday taking photos as part of the crash investigation.

UPRR spokesman Greg Wallen said the four people on the trestle were all trespassing. He also said a video camera on board the train recorded the accident.

The train was headed to Los Angeles from Seattle and was delayed two hours after the accident.

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