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Train Wreck Kills 2, Injures Hundreds

Apr 23, 2002 | MSNBC

THE NORTHBOUND Burlington Northern Santa Fe freight slammed into the southbound Metrolink train about 8:16 a.m. PT. The impact buckled one of the cars on the passenger train and caused two others to jump the tracks, authorities said. There was no fire.

Jim Amormino, a spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, initially reported that three people had been killed, but he later reduced the death toll to two. Both victims were passengers — a 59-year-old man who was in the first car and a 48-year-old man who was in the third car — Amormino said.

Authorities estimated that 265 people — most of them passengers on the Metrolink train — had been hurt in the accident, which occurred about 35 miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles. Three hundred passengers were on the Metrolink train, according to Metrolink spokeswoman Sharon Gavin.

Up to 75 passengers were sent to trauma centers, where at least eight were reported to be in critical condition. The rest of the injured were treated at the scene.

Firefighters, some using ladders, helped passengers out of the double-decker Metrolink train and carried the most seriously injured to a triage center established alongside the tracks. Thirty ambulances were dispatched to transport the injured to area hospitals.


Passengers said the Metrolink train was stopped at an intersection when the freight train hit it. The freight was traveling between 10 and 30 mph, according to various witness’ accounts.

“It was a big, intense hit,” a Metrolink passenger who identified herself as Magdalena told MSNBC TV. “We didn’t know what hit us. People fell out of their seats.”

Witnesses told KFI Radio that crew members on one of the trains leaped from the train moments before the impact. Rescue workers tend to victims at a makeshift triage area next to the tracks.

Metrolink officials said that local officials from the National Transportation and Safety Board were investigating and that it was not immediately clear how the two trains wound up on the same track. Gavin, the Metrolink spokeswoman, said that Burlington Northern Santa Fe, which owns and maintains the stretch of rail where the collision occurred, was responsible for traffic control.

Lena Kent, a spokeswoman for Burlington Northern Santa Fe, said the railroad runs 55 freight trains a day along the line, which connects Los Angeles and Chicago. Railroad officials declined further comment pending the NTSB investigation.

The Metrolink train, No. 809, had just left the west Corona station and was heading toward the Anaheim Canyon station when the accident occurred. The train’s engineer was in the passenger car at the front of the train, remotely controlling the locomotive at the rear of the train, Gavin said.


Several streets in the area were closed because of the wreckage and the length of the freight train. It was carrying dozens of cars.

It was the second major U.S. rail accident in a week. Four people were killed and more than 100 injured on Thursday when Amtrak’s Auto Train 52 derailed in Crescent City, Fla.

The cause of the accident has not yet been determined. Tuesday’s accident was only the second major crash in the 10-year history of Metrolink, Southern California’s regional commuter rail service. The system carries more than 32,000 passengers a day across the region on 128 trains each day.

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