Bonnie Carrillo was shy, wary and always on alert — a person who was just trying to survive.
That’s how her friend, Eugene Wade, 54, a member of Gainesville’s homeless community, remembers her.
“She was a really nice person,” Wade said, though he added she mostly kept to herself.
“She was quiet. She never interacted with very many people,” he said. “In the streets, you have to have a certain mindset to survive. … And she was a female, so she had to have her own mindset so she wouldn’t get hurt out here.”
Carrillo, 50, was hit and killed by a train around 7 a.m. Thursday in Gainesville as she crossed the railroad tracks, the Hall County Sheriff’s Office said, adding she was a member of the city’s homeless community.
“At this time, investigators believe the victim was crossing the train tracks and possibly tried to retrieve an item she had dropped,” the Sheriff’s Office said Thursday. “An approaching train was unable to stop and struck the victim as she was searching the tracks.”
It is not clear what Carrillo may have been looking for.
Wade said he spoke with Carrillo a few days before her death about getting off the streets. It was about 2 a.m., he said, and they were both staying warm in his car.
“We actually talked about staying warm and how we are going to get off the streets one day,” he said. “That was the last few conversations we had, and sometimes that lasted up to like 30 to 40 minutes of us trying to figure out how we’re going to get off the streets and stay safe at the same time.”
He didn’t know how or why Carrillo became homeless, though he said her father, a man he knows only as “Scooter” and for whom he didn’t have any contact information, is also homeless.
“That's something that most people don't talk about out here, is how they got here,” he said.
“She was at a lot of our events, and she was well known in the homeless community,” said Mike Fisher, street outreach director for Ninth District Opportunity, a local nonprofit that serves low-income families. “But she kind of kept to the outer edge and didn't fully engage and make herself really transparent to the people who tried to help her.”
The Sheriff’s Office and Norfolk Southern Railway are investigating Carrillo’s death.