Rail death changed to ‘undetermined’

The change in ruling comes, at least in part, after Keith Miranda’s father lobbied the medical examiner, arguing his son was not suicidal at the time of his death.

By: Donna Lukiw
   Despite an earlier ruling that 17-year-old Keith Miranda’s death was a suicide, Regional Medical Examiner Zhongxue Hua has changed the death to "undetermined."
   The change confirms what Keith’s friends and family have felt throughout the investigation into his death Nov. 11 on the CSX railroad tracks in Manville.
   "We know in our hearts and minds that he did not commit suicide. He was a very popular kid and well loved," Keith’s father, William Miranda of Jasinski Avenue, said.
   The change in ruling comes, at least in part, after Mr. Miranda lobbied the medical examiner, arguing his son was not suicidal at the time of his death.
   "He said that I raised some very valid points in my letter and thus, after consulting with the doctor who performed the actual autopsy, agreed that the report should be changed," Mr. Miranda said. "He said it will take up to two weeks for all the paperwork to be finalized."
   Mr. Miranda, Keith’s mother Judy, and Keith’s brothers and friends said Keith was not a troubled or depressed teen and he was loved by his family and friends.
   "I want people who both knew and didn’t know Keith, that he did not commit suicide," Mr. Miranda said. "I know that this won’t bring Keith back, but I think it’s very important that people in the community know this."
   Keith was hit by a train on Nov. 11 while he was walking home from a party. Although his blood alcohol content was not revealed, police and Keith’s family said he had been drinking that night. Mr. Miranda and Chris Farkas, Keith’s best friend, said Keith had also sprained his ankle a few days before while playing with his friends.
   "He walked about half a mile before he was struck," Mr. Miranda said. "He was walking the tracks, he was disoriented and probably sat down to rest his ankle. People that commit suicide are troubled kids. It’s not a spur of a moment decision. He was a normal kid."
   Ms. Miranda described Keith as happy before he left for the party — she said he was even dancing.
   "He would look forward to every Friday just to hang out with his friends," Ms. Miranda said.
   Keith’s best friend, Chris, said he picked Keith up every morning to go to school and played basketball with him after school.
   "He was one of the happiest people I ever met," Chris said. "At the party, he was normal, his average personality."
   Ms. Miranda said Keith was starting to apply to culinary schools hoping to become a chef. She said he also played on the Manville High School basketball team and loved the Jets.
   "Even though he was smaller, I always looked up to him," Chris said about Keith’s 5-foot 3-inch, 140-pound frame. "I think the possibility of a suicide is out of the question."
   Kelly Bartolome, a friend from school, said Keith was "too happy to commit suicide. He was always joking."
   While Keith was loved by his friends in school and his family, his neighbors also said they will miss him.
   "Keith is a great kid and will be missed," neighbors wrote in a sympathy letter to the family. "Our street won’t be the same without seeing Keith play football or basketball. He was one of the most polite kids we ever knew, always waving and saying hello."
   William Joseph, Keith’s older brother, said Keith would walk the railroad tracks if it was after the town’s 10 p.m. curfew for people under 18 years of age. William Joseph said many kids walk the tracks to avoid a town ordinance violation from the police.
   "When I was younger, the cops sort of harassed you," William Joseph said. "So, if I was at a house and then walking back to my house I would walk the tracks. I probably knew my brother better than anyone, including my parents, and I know he didn’t commit suicide."
   In order to remember and honor Keith, the Mirandas had T-shirts printed with "In Loving Memory of Keith," and "Sunrise 6-24-88, Sunset 11-11-05."
   About 103 people have bought the shirts and will be wearing them on his birthday in June.
   The Mirandas’ house is filled with poster boards, collages and photos of Keith —all made for his family by Keith’s friends.
   The Manville High School basketball team made wrist sweatbands with "Keith 31" printed on them while other friends framed and signed a Jets jersey in honor of Keith and his favorite team.
   "Life to him was the most important," Chris said. "Every day was a new day and we made the most of it."