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Questions linger over male pedestrian struck by train near South 99

Merced County Sheriff's investigators are unsure about why and how a Hispanic male was fatally struck by a train near Highway 99 and Franklin Avenue shortly before 3 a.m. Friday.

The man, who is believed to be about 21 years old, has yet to be identified, according to sheriff's spokesperson Tom MacKenzie. MacKenzie said it's unknown whether the man committed suicide or if the incident is an accident. The train's conductor was the sole witness to the incident, which happened on the 2300 block of south Highway 99, MacKenzie said.

California Highway Patrol, Merced County Sheriff's Department and Union Pacific Police officers arrived at the scene. According to dispatch notes available at the CHP's Traffic Incident Info Web page, the victim was found between the train tracks and highway, near the UC Merced exit sign.

MacKenzie said the victim's body was too badly destroyed to make a positive visual identification-- although some personal identification was found nearby. MacKenzie said investigators will likely use dental records and fingerprints to help confirm the victim's identity.

Investigators are asking with information about this incident to call the sheriff's department at (209) 385-7445.