Skip to comments.Metrolink: Engineer Responsible For Deadly Crash
Posted on 09/13/2008 5:20:07 PM PDT by BenLurkin
LOS ANGELES (CBS) ― A commuter train engineer who ran a stop signal was blamed Saturday for the nation's deadliest rail disaster in 15 years, a wreck that killed at least 25 people with more bodies still to be pulled from the smoldering, twisted metal.
A preliminary investigation found that "it was a Metrolink engineer that failed to stop at a red signal and that was the probable cause" of Friday's collision with a freight train in Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley, Metrolink spokeswoman Denise Tyrrell said. She said she believes the engineer, whose name was not released, is dead.
"When two trains are in the same place at the same time somebody's made a terrible mistake," said Tyrrell, who was shaking and near tears as she spoke with reporters.
Emergency crews found more victims early Saturday, as they delicately picked apart the mangled wreckage of a commuter train that collided head-on with a freight train on the same track.
More victims were feared trapped in the wrecked Metrolink commuter train. About 135 people were injured.
Los Angeles police Officer Spree Desha, 35, was among those killed in the crash. She joined the department in 2001 and worked at North Hollywood Division. Most recently she was assigned to the department's Office of Operations.
Dozens of police officers at the scene of the crash stood solemnly near the crash site, knowing that a comrade had died in the wreckage. As Desha's body was removed from the train, firefighters carried the stretcher to the waiting hands of LAPD officers, who then carried their fallen comrade past a long line of saluting officers and sheriff's deputies.
The impact of the crash rammed the Metrolink engine backward into a passenger car, which rested on its side with the engine still inside it early Saturday, and accordioned the freight train cars. Two other Metrolink cars remained upright. Crews had to put out a fire under part of the train.
It was the deadliest U.S. passenger train accident in 15 years,
During the night, the teams used hydraulic jacks to keep the passenger car from falling over and other specialized rescue equipment to gently tear apart the metal.
Fire Capt. Steve Ruda said the goal was to eliminate every piece of metal and gradually work down into the passenger spaces, but by midnight crews were just getting through the top deck of the double-decker train.
"There's human beings in there and it's going to be painstaking to get them out," Ruda said. "They'll have to surgically remove them."
His firefighters had never seen such carnage, he said. The crews would have to work carefully to document the incident for investigators and so relatives could identify bodies, Ruda said.
Officials say there were 222 people on the Metrolink train and four Union Pacific employees aboard the freight train.
"This is the worst accident I've ever seen," Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said. "Clearly the injuries are going to mount and so are the fatalities."
Kulm said the federal investigation will be headed by the National Transportation Safety Board, while his agency will conduct a review of whether any federal rail safety regulations were violated.
Union Pacific spokeswoman Zoe Richmond said it is common in California for freight and commuter trains to be on one track.
"You see it a lot in California where commuter trains share tracks with freight trains," Richmond said, adding she couldn't speculate about the cause of the crash.
Dr. Marc Eckstein, medical director for the city Fire Department, said 135 people were taken to hospitals -- about 85 of them in serious or critical condition.
In the initial hours after the disaster, firefighters treated the injured at three triage areas near the wreck, and helicopters flew in and out of a nearby landing area on evacuation flights. Dazed and injured passengers sat on the ground and wandered about.
Leslie Burnstein saw the crash from her home and heard screams of agony as she ran through a haze of smoke toward the wreckage. She pulled victims out one by one.
"It was horrendous," said Burnstein, a psychologist. "Blood was everywhere. ... I heard people yelling, screaming in pain, begging for help."
Metrolink spokeswoman Denise Tyrrell said the Metrolink train left Union Station in downtown Los Angeles and was headed northwest to Moorpark in Ventura County. The trains collided at about 4:30 p.m. in the Chatsworth area of the San Fernando Valley, near a 500-foot-long tunnel underneath Stoney Point Park.
On the north side of the tunnel, there is a siding, a length of track where one train can wait for another to pass, Tyrrell said.
Until Friday, the worst disaster in Metrolink's history occurred on Jan. 26, 2005, in suburban Glendale when a man parked a gasoline-soaked SUV on railroad tracks. A Metrolink train struck the SUV and derailed, striking another Metrolink train traveling the other way, killing 11 people and injuring about 180 others. Juan Alvarez was convicted this year of murder for causing the crash.
That was the worst U.S. rail tragedy since March 15, 1999, when an Amtrak train hit a truck and derailed near Bourbonnais, Ill., killing 11 people and injuring more than 100.
The local news said he was sending Text Messages.
Witnesses are saying that Metrolink 111 would “always” wait at the Chatsworth station for the Leesdale Local to pass, but this video shows otherwise:
“Metrolink 111 meets the Leesdale Local”
It would not be too difficult to put something in place to stop the train if it approaches a stop light.
The engineer was sending text messages while he was piloting the train? Yikes!
Why not release the name?
Horrific crash. I thought there were electronic or mechanical fail safes now in place rather than just a red light to keep two trains from using the same track.
He was sending text messages?? Oh my gosh.
If he hadn’t died in this crash, he would surely be wishing he were among the dead.
So very sad.
I ride this trian everyday and have for a decade now. I took off Friday for my kid’s birthday. There are a lot of sidings and switches along the route and commuter trains share the rails with the freight trains. Sometimes we have to wait at a signal but usually the schedule is clear and we just stop at the stations. How can an engineeer miss a signal like this? Shouldn’t an alarm go off? All the trains have GPS, etc.
I find it hard to believe any Metrolink engineer would miss a signal.
But I guess there is no other explanation?
I wonder if this is true? Did the text-message-reciever person show up and prove this?
If they're on the same track headed toward each other, there's no other way to collide but "head-on".
Prayers up for all those affected...
More than a decade ago, all Conrail locomotives had a "dead man switch." If the engineer failed to obey a wayside signal (to stop, for instance) the engine would stop, immediately.
Obviously, this commuter train did not have a dead man switch. The engineer failed to obey the signals. The train did not stop automatically. Why didn't it have that switch? In the Amtrak case, it was union opposition to such switches.
my first question also. loved ones notified first maybe? legal reasons? not sure of his name? or...........
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