Parents say Amtrak investigation around son’s injuries is a “smear campaign” | SierraSun.com

Parents say Amtrak investigation around son’s injuries is a “smear campaign”

Hannah Jones
hjones@sierrasun.com

Portland State University student, Aaron Salazar, was taking an Amtrak train back to school from Denver when he was found unconscious and in critical condition near the train tracks in Truckee.

The parents of 22-year-old Aaron Salazar, an Amtrak passenger found critically injured on the train tracks outside of Truckee two weeks ago, said that Amtrak's investigation of their son is a "smear campaign to sweep Aaron's story under the rug," in a statement released to the Sierra Sun.

The family's statement followed a press conference on Tuesday in which Amtrak Chief of Police Neil Trugman said it was likely that Salazar had jumped from the train, as there was no evidence of a physical altercation.

In the released statement, Salazar's parents, Damion Salazar and Angie Barnett, disputed the possibility of suicide.

"From the very start, they ruled this case an attempted suicide. Their investigators gave us misleading information, including telling us that they had a witness who saw Aaron jump out a window on the train. When we fact-checked their claim and confronted the detective, he simply backpedaled his statement. Amtrak's investigators only investigated the case as an attempt at suicide."

"[Trugman's] claims about Aaron's injuries falling from a train are not consistent with what anyone who has seen Aaron can attest to," the statement read.

Trugman stated that a Union Pacific Railroad Foreman had seen the train go by with an open window in one of the cars at approximately 9:27 a.m. Salazar's last known contact with anyone was in the form of a text message sent at 9:01 a.m. His body was found on the far east side of Truckee at 11:10 a.m.

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Amtrak's Chief of Police said that the department reached out to 300 customers, crew members and friends during the investigation. "Individuals noted that in their interaction with Salazar he shared a number of life concerns and problems he was having," he said.

"I believe that something happened on that train and Amtrak is not capable of handling this case," said Sonia Trujillo, Salazar's cousin. Trujillo had said in earlier statements last week that Salazar had mostly kept to himself.

According to Trujillo, Salazar is still in a coma, but in stable condition. Doctors have told the family that "it's a long healing process."

Aaron Salazar remains at Renown Hospital in Reno suffering from injuries to his upper body, including a broken pelvis, damaged brain stem and strange burns on the inside of his thighs.

Hannah Jones is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at 530-550-2652 of hjnones@sierrasun.com

Family’s Official Statement

“As Aaron’s father and mother, we are releasing our official first public statement on what has happened with our son. We have many problems with Amtrak’s press conference today. First and foremost, Amtrak is a for-profit company that is currently investigating its own case to prevent any liability.

From the very start, they ruled this case an attempted suicide. Their investigators gave us misleading information, including telling us that they had a witness who saw Aaron jump out a window on the train.

When we fact-checked their claim and confronted the detective, he simply backpedaled his statement. Amtrak’s investigators only investigated the case as an attempt at suicide.

Second, regarding the Amtrak chief of police’s statement, his claims about Aaron’s injuries falling from a train are not consistent with what anyone who has seen Aaron can attest to. For one, those burns that were supposedly from jumping out of a train are not consistent with the facts because Aaron’s jeans were not damaged and his injuries themselves do not match jumping out of a train.

We are also surprised by this false theory because they have never had medical experts examine his body to determine the cause of his injuries. Their form of investigation has been little more than a smear campaign to sweep Aaron’s story under the rug like Robin Putnam’s case a few years ago.”