Pendleton resident Angel Murillo died early Tuesday when a train struck him. He was 24. Pendleton police are calling the death an accident.
Murillo was from White Salmon, Washington, and moved to Pendleton several years ago. He attended Blue Mountain Community College, where he made honor roll in 2015 and in 2016 was the vice president of the new FFA collegiate chapter.
Murillo was a cowboy and worked at the Hamley Western Store as a hat shaper and more recently as a saddle maker. He won first place in the novice class for saddle making at the 2018 Pendleton Leather Show as well as the people’s choice award. He also spent many an evening in the weight room at Pendleton’s Club 24. People who knew Murillo posted comments celebrating his life on Facebook page.
They described Murillo as a good, kind person. Pendleton business owner Kristine Taylor stated Murillo “became known as one of the best hat shapers around,” and “at such a young age he touched so many people’s lives.”
Penny French, manager of the Hamley Western Store, said this was a difficult time for her and the staff, and the store at some point plans to hold a memorial for their co-worker and friend.
The store’s Facebook page contained a post stating Murillo “was one of the nicest and most honest young men around and we are going to miss him terribly.” The post also provided a link to donate to a memorial fund for Murillo.
Some people who knew Murillo also said he had a drinking problem. Pendleton police Lt. Tony Nelson said Murillo was “unresponsive” in public areas on three occasions since May 2018, and in June an officer removed Murillo from the railroad tracks as a train approached and sounded its horn. Nelson said each instance involved “alcohol use to an excess.”
The fatal collision occurred Tuesday at about 1:40 a.m. near Southwest 11th Street and Frazer Avenue, Pendleton, according to Nelson, who headed up the investigation. He reported the engineer and conductor “placed the eastbound 136-car train into emergency stop mode upon seeing what appeared to be a person laying between the rails.”
The train’s speed zone is 35 mph, Nelson said, and the train was traveling at 33 mph and operating normally. However, Murillo was wearing dark-colored clothing, the lighting was limited and the train could not stop before striking Murillo.
“They got it stopped in 1,400 feet,” he said. “Usually it takes a mile.”
The crossing arms in the area also were working properly, according to Nelson, but Murillo was not in a designated crossing area.
Murillo drank that night at the Hamley Steakhouse. Nelson said trying to establish if someone over-served Murillo would be a “very tough thing to pinpoint on any specific entity due to the fact of distance and time from a serving location.” Nelson said police have nothing to indicate this was anything other than an unfortunate accident.
He also encouraged anyone with information about Murillo’s death to call the Pendleton Police Department at 541-276-4411 or the Umatilla County Dispatch Center at 541-966-3651.