Texas man's SMART train death in Rohnert Park deemed accidental

The death of a Texas man who was struck by a SMART train in August has been deemed accidental. 

The death of a man who was struck by a Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit train in August was accidental, the Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety said today.

"Evidence discovered during the investigation suggests Joseph DeFrates did not recognize the train as a hazard until he was in the path of the train," Public Safety Department Cmdr. Aaron Johnson said in a press release.

The Department of Public Safety closely examined video from the train and spoke to DeFrates family and witnesses, Johnson said. De- Frates, 29, of Round Rock, Texas, was walking east on Golf Course Drive near a train crossing on Aug. 30 around 5 p.m. The train was traveling north at approximately 66 mph, Johnson said.

The train engineer saw DeFrates approaching the grade crossing and sounded the train horn, but DeFrates was looking down and did not make any movement to indicate he recognized his proximity to the tracks, Johnson said.

The engineer applied the emergency brake but DeFrates was struck by the left front of the train, Johnson said.

The Department of Public Safety said it received two calls on Aug. 30 about a pedestrian that "walked" in front of the train. DeFrates' body was found away from the track near a fence.

One witness said a male was walking with his head down looking at something in his hands, and he described what appeared to be head phones on the man's ears, the Department of Public Safety said. 

The train traveled approximately 300 feet from the point of impact before it came to a stop.

"In cooperation with SMART as well as the Sonoma County coroner's office, the investigation revealed the death of Joseph DeFrates was accidental," Johnson said.

A Santa Rosa woman died when she was struck by a SMART train in Santa Rosa in February and a Novato woman died when she was struck in Novato in August. Both deaths are believed to be suicides.