HUGHSON -- A note posted Christmas night on Facebook, a space normally reserved for joyous greetings and everyday chitchat, serves as the final goodbye of a young Waterford man who committed suicide shortly after.
About 9 p.m. Tuesday on his Facebook page, 21-year-old Antjuan Miguel Colvin said farewell to his family and friends and wrote that he was going to end his life. At 9:48 p.m., he drove his car onto an Amtrak railroad crossing at Santa Fe Avenue and East Service Road in Hughson. Stanislaus County sheriff's Sgt. Anthony Bejaran said Colvin was struck by a northbound train going about 75 mph and was pronounced dead at the scene.
Colvin's public proclamation and act caused ripples across the valley and the Internet as family and friends scrambled to help and get information. His final post on his Facebook page reads: "To all my friends and family on Facebook. Thank you all you have all made an impact on my life some of you good some of you not but you all are loved I hope you all have wonderful lives. I know its not my time to go but I cannot take living any longer. So as of tonight I will end my life. Again thank you for being apart of my life. Merry Christmas.......Goodbye."
Almost immediately after the posting, relatives and friends replied with concern and alarm. Many asked if he was OK. Some asked Colvin to call them. Others asked if it was a joke. His sister, Waterford resident Leticia Rosales, was one of the first to respond. People began calling his cell phone and frantically messaging one another.
Waterford resident Olivia Johnson, 22, knew Colvin since she was a little girl and worked with him earlier this year at Kmart. She saw his post later Tuesday night and tried to figure out what was happening.
"I didn't know what to think when I saw it," she said. "I called his phone like 100 times. I called his sister, messaged his girlfriend, called them to (find out) if they knew what was going on. I don't understand why he would do this."
As news began to emerge of an accident involving a train and car in Hughson later that night, concern became panic and then finally horrified disbelief as the worst was confirmed.
Amtrak spokeswoman Christina Leeds said Colvin's car was parked in a lighted railroad crossing when it was hit by San Joaquin Train 703 headed from Bakersfield to Sacramento, five miles east of Modesto in Hughson.
Three train passengers injured
The train had 98 passengers on board and was delayed by the crash for about two hours before it was cleared to continue. There was no significant damage to the locomotive, but Bejaran said three people were shaken up and treated at the scene for minor injuries.
During the delay, investigators interviewed the conductor, who was the only witness.
"It's horrible for the conductor and horrible for the family, who will always have to remember Christmas Day as a day they lost a family member," Bejaran said. "I can't imagine that."
According to the Federal Railroad Administration, train deaths represent 3 percent of all suicides in the United States. There were 428 train suicides from June 2007 to May 2010, with the highest incidents in New Jersey, Florida, California, New York and Arizona.
A report released in May 2012 by the Federal Railroad Administration said trespasser suicides are a growing problem for the railroad industry.
Also increasing over the years has been the trend of online suicide notes, posted on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Last December, Facebook launched a suicide prevention tool, which lets users flag any post they believe suicidal and then provides a direct link to a counselor for an online chat.
Notes on Facebook a trend
Facebook suicide notes have been reported across the country and around the world. Researchers from the Institute of Forensic Medicine in Switzerland studied the phenomena and released a report last year titled "Suicide Announcement on Facebook." In many cases, it found, social network users tried to prevent planned suicides, as Colvin's family and friends did.
Shortly before posting his suicide note, Colvin put up a video of Puff Daddy's eulogistic hit ballad, "I'll Be Missing You," written in tribute to the rapper The Notorious B.I.G.
On Dec. 24, Colvin wrote a cryptic post that read only, "Tomorrow is Christmas ......................... :(."
When a couple of people asked about the "sad face" at the end of the text, Colvin apparently entered: "something im (sic) trying to deal with on my own right now."
"What was weird was I hadn't seen any postings from him on Facebook since like early December," Johnson said. "Then all of a sudden, I saw that one where it's almost Christmas and a sad face. I didn't know what that meant. I really didn't know what to think."
Besides his recent posts, Colvin's Facebook feed — which was open and accessible to the public — is largely filled with pleasantries and photos of him. Earlier in the month, he wrote he was going to Christmas Tree Lane with his family and new girlfriend. With his 429 Facebook friends, he discussed going to the movies with friends this fall and posted a photo of a trip to Yosemite a couple of years ago. In most of his public pictures, he is smiling; in others, he's giving the thumbs-up sign.
His friend Johnson said his family and friends are badly shaken by Colvin's death and struggling to understand what happened.
"He was just an awesome person; he had the best smile on his face and always knew how to make people laugh," she said. "He was just a wonderful person."
'All I'll remember is him'
Colvin attended Hughson High School and graduated from Kerman High near Fresno in 2009. Friends said he loved playing basketball and enjoyed all sports. He had worked for the past few months at Dick's Sporting Goods.
But former live-in girlfriend Savanna Callahan, 24, said that behind his smile could be doubt and depression. The Oakdale resident said the two went out for six months earlier this year. "I am in shock. But only to an extent. When me and him broke up, he said he wasn't strong enough to be my boyfriend. I had hoped he'd gained strength," she said. "He was very sweet. He liked everybody."
Callahan said Christmas was one of Colvin's favorite holidays. He has two sisters and a younger brother, and most of his family lives in Waterford.
A day after his suicide, Colvin's Facebook farewell note — with close to 100 comments — and other recent posts were taken off public display.
Those who knew him are left with only questions. "I just don't understand. What, why? I just don't know," Johnson said. "He said he was trying to deal with something on his own and I wish I knew and could help him. Now every Christmas, all I'll remember is him."
In early November, Colvin posted a picture with a quote on it that read: "I hide all of my problems behind my smile. Behind my smile is a world of pain. You think you know me, but you have no idea."
He wrote one word next it: "True."