Students and staff at a Martinez middle school are mourning the tragic loss of a 14-year-old girl who was struck and killed by a train after apparently dropping her phone on the tracks on Sunday.
Jenna Betti, an eighth-grader at Martinez Junior High School, was struck at about 5 p.m. Sunday by a Burlington Northern Santa Fe train on the railroad tracks near Old Orchard and Howe roads, Martinez police said.
BNSF Railway spokeswoman Lena Kent said three crewmembers aboard the train, which was headed from Richmond to Fresno, noticed the girl and someone else on the tracks.
“They both exited the tracks, then for whatever reason, she came back onto the tracks” and was hit, Kent said.
A Facebook message from Jenna’s mother, Dena Betti, that was reposted by others on social media said Jenna was on the tracks with her boyfriend.
“Why they made such a horrible decision we’ll never know,” she wrote. “The horn blew to alert them. He jumped south side and she cleared north side. She dropped her phone and went back to retrieve it. She didn’t judge the approach and the train creates a vacuum we were told and it sucks you in.”
Martinez Unified School District superintendent Rami Muth, who knows the Bettis personally, said the family and the larger school community are “beyond devastated” about Jenna’s death.
“It’s a nightmare no parent would ever want to experience,” Muth said.
Muth got to know the family, which includes Jenna’s two younger sisters, after Dena Betti ran for a school board seat in 2012 and said the family is closely involved with school activities, including the Girl Scouts.
“The loss is just indescribable,” she said. “The family is trying to make sense of it.”
Muth said Jenna, who played club soccer, was popular, smart and beautiful.
“When she would walk in a room, the room would light up,” she said. “She had a sparkle about her that was special.”
Students wore pink at Martinez Junior High today in honor of Jenna, said school principal Jonathan Eagan.
“Honestly, right now it’s a lot of shock, devastation and sadness that we’re all experiencing,” Eagan said.
He said grief counselors are being provided on campus for students and staff mourning Jenna’s death.
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