Authorities fail to notify family of homeless man killed by Amtrak train in Richmond

Richmond woman, 71, fatally struck by Amtrak train last week

The family of a homeless man who was killed by an Amtrak train in Richmond earlier this year said they were not contacted by authorities about his death, according to Bay City News.

Lehman Leonard Brightman III was possibly drunk and high on methamphetamine when he was struck and killed on March 2, the newswire stated, citing an autopsy report.

The Contra Costa County coroner’s office said multiple attempts to reach Brightman’s family failed. Had a reporter not contacted Brightman’s brother, Richmond resident Quanah Brightman, the family might not have found out for years, since they haven’t been in touch with him.

Instances where the coroner’s office cannot get a hold of next of kin following a death are rare. Deputies were unable to notify next of kin in nine out of more than 9,800 cases from June 2013 to March of this year, according to data provided by the coroner’s office. The majority of those nine cases involved homeless people.

The sheriff’s office said every effort was made to notify Brightman’s family, including phone calls and searches for phone numbers and addresses. Although Quanah Brightman’s email address can be found via a Google search, according to Bay City News, the sheriff’s office said it does not contact people through online communications.

“We’re not going to email anyone,” Sheriff’s Capt. William Duke told the newswire.  “It’s bad enough that we have to phone someone. Typically, we find next of kin and notify them in person.”

It is not known how Brightman ended up in the path of an Amtrak train. He had distanced himself from his family after their father suffered a stroke in 2011, his brother said.

“Why would he be on the train tracks?” Quanah Brightman said. “(The coroner’s deputy) said he was hit by a train. I don’t know why he would be out there, though. That’s what doesn’t make sense.”

Quanah Brightman said he wished he was contacted sooner and felt his family was easy enough to locate.  Still, he expressed gratitude that he was able to retrieve his brother’s remains and plan a funeral.