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Eighth Grade Girl Killed Retrieving Cell Phone from BNSF Tracks

(Martinez, California – March 2, 2014)

A 14-year-old eight grader at Martinez Junior High School in Martinez, CA died Sunday evening at about 5:00 P.M. when she and her boyfriend left BNSF Railway tracks in Martinez, but returned to retrieve a dropped cellular telephone near the tracks and was struck by a BNSF freight train.

Jenna Betti was walking near BNSF tracks near Old Orchard and Howe Roads when she and her companion went to a safer distance away from the railroad tracks, but, according to train crew members, “for some reason, the girl stepped back on the tracks,” where the victim, according to a family friend, “was sucked under the train as it approached.”

The train that killed the young victim was one of a daily average of 26 trains which run through that rail corridor at a top allowable speed of 55 mph, according to the Federal Railroad Administration. BNSF Spokesperson Lena Kent said that the train was travelling at well below 45 mph.

“Jenna was a vivacious, beautiful young lady who was always smiling and had lots of friends,” lamented Martinez Junior High School Principal Jonathan Eagan to San Francisco CBS affiliate KPIX-TV, Channel 5 News. “She was a very popular girl. I really can’t put it in words,” Eagan continued. “To be honest, it’s hard – on a personal level,” he concluded.

Eagan, who had also been Jenna’s elementary school principal prior to being elevated to his present position, had known the victim and her family for years and called her both “a good student” and a “phenomenal athlete,” calling her untimely death both “devastating” and “shocking.”

Martinez Unified School District Supt. Rami Muth told Channel 5 that grief counsellors would be at the school Monday to meet with students in understanding their classmate’s tragic death. “It’s a hard issue to deal with students,” said Supt. Muth. “We want them to know that it was a tragic accident and that her life will be remembered.”