(Del Mar, California – January 3, 2014)
A former mayor of Del Mar, CA and the renowned professor and chairman of the political science department at San Diego State University was tragically killed Friday afternoon at about 3:30 P.M. when he successfully attempted to chase his pet dog from San Diego Northern Railway tracks after the animal had been “spooked” by the sound of the train’s horn.
According to officers of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Office, Louis “Lou” Terrell, 75, who had served the affluent Pacific coast community of over 4,000 residents as both mayor and city councilman as he worked as a department chair and professor at SDSU, was walking his unleashed dog on the bluffs near the SDN tracks, which accommodate a daily average of 60 trains, including more than a dozen Amtrak passenger operations at a top allowable speed of 50 mph, when a northbound Amtrak train bound for San Diego struck him as he shooed his dog from harm’s way.
Investigators said that the dog became frightened when the train’s engineer sounded the locomotive’s horn, and ran directly into the train’s path. The dog, a yellow Labrador retriever, was unharmed, picked up by San Diego Sheriff’s Dept. Sgt. Anthony O’Boyle, and later turned over to the victim’s brother-in-law.
Officials said that it appeared that the victim wasn’t struck head-on and may have been trying to get out of the way when he was fatally struck by the Amtrak “Coaster” train.
Del Mar resident Jeff Jonas called Terrell’s death “a horrible tragedy,” adding that “He was obviously chasing his dog, which any dog owner would obviously do and it just turned out horribly.”
“He’s done this probably a million times,” observed Nick Ovanessoff, another Del Mar resident. “For the train to come by like that is pretty tragic. We’re all kind of shocked.”
But San Diego NBC affiliate Channel 7 reported that “This portion of the tracks in Del Mar is a popular crossing spot for surfers and walkers in the area.”
An unidentified observer told Channel 7 that “Unfortunately, the trains are very quiet and move through there very quickly, so it’s a bad mix. They are very deceiving when you see them coming. They look like they are going so slow, but in reality, they are not.”
The victim’s daughter, in asking privacy for her family, said that “It’s a tragic and shocking loss. He was beloved by his family and the community and former colleagues at SDSU.”