Noe Valley Voice October 2009

Cause of Death Along Tracks Still Unclear

By Tim Innes

One minute Bill Nelson was exiting the Muni streetcar and walking beside it toward the corner of 22nd and Church streets. The next, he was found lying by the tracks, with injuries that would soon claim his life.

What happened to William Joseph Nelson, 58, on the morning of Sept. 10 remains a mystery. However, police investigators believe he stumbled, fell, and was hit by the departing train.

According to a Muni statement, video from a camera aboard the light-rail vehicle shows a man believed to be the Noe Valley resident getting off a southbound S-Castro car at 9:08 a.m. and walking 20 to 30 feet beside the train until he disappeared from view. Though the video suggests that some passengers might have seen Nelson fall, Muni said no one alerted the operator, nor did the operator report hitting anything.

"We've closed the case and turned it over to the district attorney and medical examiner,'' said Inspector Jeff Clark of the San Francisco Police Department's Hit-and-Run Detail. "There was no criminal act; it appears to have been an accident.''

As of Sept. 30, the medical examiner's office had not announced a cause of death. Muni was conducting its own investigation.

Nelson had lived in his Sanchez Street apartment for some 25 years, according to landlord Louis Pagan. For the past 16 years, Nelson was a member of Sign and Display Local 510, helping build and install trade show exhibits at Moscone Center and other convention venues around the Bay Area.

''He was a good guy,'' said Josh Ende, a union field representative.

Previously, Nelson--a graduate of Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa., and a lifelong Pittsburgh Pirates fan--worked as a chef and hotel concierge and owned a restaurant.

Survivors include his mother, Elizabeth Nelson, of Danville, Ky., and a brother, Kenneth Nelson, of Chicago.

Services were held Sept. 17 in Danville, followed by burial in Mount Sterling, Ky.