LA Commuter Train Crash Kills 25Sep 15, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP
A Los Angeles commuter train crash last Friday killed 25 people and injured 138. Federal investigators are now on the scene of the grisly accident, trying to determine why the Metrolink train ran past stop signals and crashed head-on into an incoming freighter.
The fatal Metrolink train crash occurred around 4:22 on Friday, near Chatsworth, California, at the west end of the San Fernando Valley. Officials said 220 people were aboard the Metrolink train, which was heading from Union Station in downtown Los Angeles to Ventura County. The impact of the collision rammed the commuter train's engine backward, jamming it deep into the first passenger car. The Associated Press is reporting that the Metrolink train was so mangled that some bodies had to be removed in pieces.
The commuter train was traveling at 42 mph at the time of the crash. Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said on Sunday that the Metrolink train failed to stop at the final red signal, which forced the train onto a track where the Union Pacific freight was traveling in the opposite direction.
"The Metrolink train went through the signal, did not observe the red signal and essentially forced open this section of the switch," member Kitty Higgins said Sunday night. "The switch bars were bent like a banana. It should be perfectly straight."
Higgins said that investigators have yet to determine whether the signal was working properly. However, she said that obeying signals on the track was the responsibility of the engineer driving the train.
The NTSB also said that investigators would be looking at the cell phone records of the train's engineer, who was killed in the collision. A Los Angeles TV station has reported that two 14-year-old boys had received a text message from the engineer in the moments before the crash. The boys' cell phone records are also being sought by the NTSB.
According to Metrolink, one of its dispatchers tried to warn the commuter train that it was heading for a crash with the freight train, but by the time the conductor on the Metrolink got the message, the collision had already occurred. However, the NTSB reported an alternative version of events, saying that the Metrolink conductor called in the crash before the dispatcher could issue the warning.
Higgins also said that audio recordings from the commuter train indicate a period of silence as it passed the last two signals before the fiery wreck, a time when the engineer and the conductor should have been going through verbal safety checks.
Friday's LA train crash was the deadliest since Amtrak's Sunset Limited plunged off a trestle into a bayou near Mobile, Ala., in September 1993. Forty-seven people were killed in that crash.