Second suicide at Peekskill train crossing  in a week 

Teen had volunteered at Fred’s Pantry; aspired to health career


Wilmer Cango, bottom row, second from left, when he played for the Santos soccer team in 2017.

By Regina Clarkin

Wilmer Vicente Cango, a 19-year-old Peekskill High School Class of 2021 graduate, died on the train tracks on Monday morning, struck by the 7:08 a.m. southbound train at the Hudson Avenue crossing.  The third suicide on Metro North tracks – and the second at Peekskill – in a week prompted MTA spokesperson Aaron Donovan to call it “a human tragedy. If you notice any concerning changes in loved ones, don’t ignore them. Start a conversation and assist in finding help,” he said. The Hudson Avenue grade level crossing was the scene of another fatality exactly a week ago, and on February 1st a 34-year-old man was struck and killed on the tracks at Dover on the Harlem Line. 

Cango, who was working in the pharmacy at CVS on Main Street, was remembered by those who knew him as a quiet and respectful person. Ruth Wells, the former coordinator of Caring for the Hungry and Homeless of Peekskill (CHHOP) Fred’s Pantry where Cango and a friend volunteered said he and his friend were referred to as “the little guys,” because of their size. They were about 12 or 13 years old.  Frequently students would come to the Pantry to earn hours for their Confirmation program service requirement. “He stayed on beyond the amount of hours he needed for the service requirement. I remember how he and his friend would be loaded onto the hand truck by some of the older student volunteers, and wheeled around,” recalled Wells. “He was small but mighty, and he put his hand to anything we needed done. He was loved by everybody – the other volunteers and the clients,” said Wells. 

Before he worked at CVS, he was a cashier at Stop-n-Shop.  “I would see him when I checked out and if there was no one on the line behind me, we’d chat and he said he was going to Westchester Community College and then would transfer to another college with the hopes of going to medical school. Clearly he had ambitions of helping people through the medical field,” said Wells. 

Two former CVS coworkers, Autumn Brown and Juan Arpi, recalled their time working with Cango.  “Wilmer was a very smart, hard working kid. Whenever I had a question about a prescription or something, I asked Wilmer,” said Arpi in a phone interview. “He took his job very seriously. He was one of the fastest workers in the store and was dedicated to the store. Wilmer would love to joke around a lot but he knew when it was time to work.” Arpi continued, “He would always stay longer if the pharmacy needed help or even come in on days he wasn’t scheduled to help. That’s what I respected most about him, how much of a hard worker he was. He was going to school and working so he looked exhausted sometimes but he always gave it his all at work. Overall, as a friend and a coworker he was an amazing person,” said Arpi.  

On a Facebook post Brown wrote:  “During my time there, I was pregnant and he would always make sure to make me laugh. I used to call him my worker bee because he was so dedicated to CVS and so focused on completing school. He talked about his love for becoming a pharmacist and taking care of his family. 

Roxanne Woodruff, a retired Peekskill Middle School teacher also shared on a Facebook post. “Wilmer was my student at the middle school for sixth grade science. He was a sweet, young man, who loved science, was a good student, and loved to play UNO. We, myself included, would sit on the floor during recess and play as many, very competitive games as time would allow.  Alexis Vasquez shared her sadness about hearing of Cango’s passing on a separate Facebook post,  “This saddens me to no end. Wilmer was my second grader. As I remember him, he was a little boy that loved soccer, came in each day with a smile on his face and seemed to enjoy our time together. I wish I could turn back the hands of time. I wish I would’ve had a chance to speak to him before this tragedy occurred. Wilmer, I’m so sorry that this happened. It’s my hope that no one else goes down this path. Reach out to someone, please. This is not the solution,” wrote Vasquez. 

When he was at Peekskill High School he was a member of the Latino Culture Club, the Math Competition Club, Track and Field. Councilman Ramon Fernandez, who coached the Santos Football Club that Cango belonged to, recalled that his nickname was Karate Kid because he would raise his foot to kick the ball.

Jessica Pacheco, a friend who knew Cango from his neighborhood, organized a GoFundMe campaign to help his family with funeral expenses. “I remember during summer vacation when he was around 10 or 11, when my husband used to play soccer with other neighbors in the front yard, Wilmer would come mad because his mom only gave him 20 minutes to play.” She continued “He was the most kind and respectful kid I have ever known. He always tried to make everyone laugh. He was always happy and trying to make his mom proud. He would talk about getting his career done all the time,” said Pacheco.  

“We are trying to help this family with the funeral expenses and give some relief to his mom, dad and brothers. His mom is the most kind woman and she is devastated and she wasn’t prepared for something like this. Any help counts toward the $10,000 goal.” As of Friday afternoon, the goal was exceeded with 12,245 raised.  

Wednesday night, the friends and family of Cango, who was born in August of 2003 to Pablo Cango and Lidia Muñoz began a prayer vigil for him. The vigil is a series of prayers said on nine consecutive nights. There will be a wake at the Joseph F. Nardone Funeral Home at 414 Washington Street on Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. and a funeral mass at Assumption Church at 10 a.m. Friday. 

Reporter Jeffrey Merchan contributed to this story. 

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