Remains of Nevada suicide victim on tracks for 17 days

RENO — Union Pacific Railroad officials are defending their handling of the cleanup of the remains of a suicide victim, whose widow complained his skin and bones were still on the tracks more than two weeks after he was struck by a train in Northern Nevada.

Company officials extended their sympathies to the family of 42-year-old Jerry Neal of Fernley and further explained in a statement late Friday their under­standing of the chain of events that left family members horrified.

Union Pacific spokesman Aaron Hunt said the company dispatched a private contractor to the tracks near Fernley, about 30 miles west of Reno, within days of when Neal’s widow, Kristy, notified them the routine cleanup conducted by the coroner’s office had failed to complete the job.

He acknowledged the final cleanup wasn’t done until July 5 — 17 days after Neal’s death June 18.

Union Pacific officials were first to respond to the suicide scene. The Lyon County Sheriff’s Office then sent a deputy coroner to remove body parts . But three days later, a friend of Neal’s son said he was shocked when he visited the location.

“It was pretty bad,” Brett White said. “You could see big clumps of it — just skin, no blood or anything. It was all over. It was pretty gross.”

Sheriff’s Lt. Johnny Smith said by that time, responsibility for the scene had shifted from the county to the railroad.