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Gay Student, Found Injured by Train Tracks, Shoots Down Amtrak's 'Suicide Attempt' Theory

by Kilian Melloy
Wednesday Dec 5, 2018
Aaron Salazar
Aaron Salazar  (Source:GoFundMe)

The openly gay student who had been aboard a train before he was found unconscious and with serious injuries next to the tracks last May has this to say to the suicide attempt theory floated by Amtrak: No way.

As reported at the time at EDGE, Aaron Salazar, a student at Portland State University, was riding an Amtrak train from Denver, CO, on his way back to Portland on the morning of May 15 when he sent a text to a family member indicating that he and an acquaintance he'd made on the train had plans to enjoy a ten-hour layover in Sacramento.

But several hours later, Salazar was found near the tracks with serious injuries, including burns on his thighs, in the California town of Truckee. Salazar also sustained a brain stem injury and broken pelvis, as well as considerable bruising, media reports noted.

Salazar's family speculated that he might have been attacked and beaten by an assailant in what they feared to be an anti-gay hate crime. They wondered whether an assailant might have tossed the young man from the train after battering him. Amtrak offered a different theory: Saying they had found no evidence of foul play, the company suggested that Salazar might have thrown himself off the moving train.

Salazar's family openly doubted that zeroing in on the severe burns to his thighs — not exactly the sort of injury one expects to see resulting from a suicide attempt involving a leap from a moving train.

Now, after waking from his coma and recovering enough to comment on the incident, Salazar himself has quashed the "attempted suicide" theory, saying, "I want you all to know, I did not jump off the train. I would never ever try to kill myself," reports Honolulu news channel KITV, which also notes that Salazar — who grew up in Hawaii — graduated from Kaiser High School in Honolulu.

Salazar's comments were posted in a video at Facebook.

Salazar began the video by thanking supporters for their "love and support, and the prayers and the letters." His family set up a GoFundMe page to help cover medical expenses. To date, the page has raised $68,000 toward a goal of $100,000.

Portland news channel KATU also reported on the Portland State University student's refutation of Amtrak's theory and reported that Amtrak released a statement in which the company expressed "hopes to talk with him as part of its investigation."

Salazar's family slammed the "attempted suicide" theory anew. Said his cousin, Sonia Trujillo, "What we're concerned about is they haven't even spoken to any of the family members. They didn't talk to any of the family members before they said that it was an attempted suicide."

Added Trujillo, "They need to investigate this because I don't believe they tried to investigate this."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


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