A 17-year-old Lodi girl was struck and killed by a train just south of Lodi Station shortly before 3 p.m. Saturday, according to Lodi police.
Monique Garcia was walking from Main Street to meet her friend, Nicole Lamiohan, 21, of Stockton, at Lodi Station when the tragedy took place.
"She tripped on the last track," Lamiohan said at a candlelight vigil Sunday night at the station.
Garcia then fell forward with her hand on the cement platform when a northbound train hit her, Lamiohan said.
She was taken to Lodi Memorial Hospital, where she was pronounced dead, police said.
Garcia attended Lodi and Liberty high schools. She was a couple of credits away from graduating, her best friend, Leticia Edillo, said on Sunday afternoon. She was described by friends and relatives as a beautiful girl who was outgoing, always had a smile on her face and enjoyed children.
"She was like a mom to me," her sister, Dominique Garcia, 13, said at Sunday night's candlelight vigil. "She took care of us. She did what a mom would do."
The incident remained under investigation Sunday, but it doesn't appear that the train operator was negligent, police said.
Garcia's death was the first train-related fatality this year in Lodi. Last year, Chad Ehrhart, 20, was killed near Locust Street on Aug. 26. Four months earlier, Danny Phelps, of Stockton, who was staggering along the tracks, was struck by a train near Pine Street, police said.
And on May 10, Samuel Huffman pulled Marguerite Jones, 82, to safety on Pine Street after her wheelchair got stuck on the tracks.
Teresa Bird, whose son is the boyfriend of a close friend of Garcia's, said she can't understand how it all happened.
"I know I shouldn't question my faith, but I don't understand it," Bird said. "Why her? It just breaks my heart."
Garcia's grandmother, Martha Tau, also struggled with her faith.
"I'm angry, hurt. (I) can't understand why God would take such a precious thing away from me," Tau said.
Other family members were angry in a different way, saying that it isn't safe enough in Lodi.
"Any teenager could have done what she did," said Angela Tovar, Garcia's cousin.
Tovar said there should be safety barriers to keep people off the tracks, much like BART has in the Bay Area. Each crossing street should go under the tracks just like it does on Turner Road and Kettleman Lane, she added.
Anyone with information about the train accident may contact Lodi police at 333-6771 or the new Crimestoppers number, 369-CRIME.
History of train accidents in Lodi
2008: Chad Ehrhart, 20, was killed near Locust Street; Danny Phelps of Stockton, who was staggering along the tracks, was struck by a train near Pine Street. In a near-death, Marguerite Jones, 82, was almost struck after her wheelchair got stuck in the tracks. Samuel Huffman got out of his car and pulled Jones off the tracks in time.
2006: Deborah Lerma, 44, was critically injured after being struck by an Amtrak train near Elm Street. She survived. Also, Lillian Flaherty, 31, lay on he tracks and may have been intoxicated when she was struck.
2005: Two men killed themselves by stopping in front of trains.
1995-2000: Eleven people died after being hit by trains.
Editor's Note: This story was updated at 3:28 p.m. Tuesday, April 28 to correct the circumstances Chad Ehrhart's accident.