The county’s deadliest rail disaster in 15 years was caused by a commuter train engineer who ran a stop signal. The California train accident killed 25 people and it took nearly a day to find all the bodies.
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Metrolink spokeswoman Denise Tyrrell said that 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. “When two trains are in the same place at the same time somebody’s made a terrible mistake,” said Tyrrell. The engineer was one of the 25 dead. Of the 25 people killed in the wreck, many had been in the front car of the Metrolink train, which was crushed in the wreck.
In addition to the 25 dead, 135 people were injured, and 81 of those were transported to hospitals in serious or critical condition. Many were described as having crush injuries.
One firefighter who pulled bodies from the wreckage said he had never seen such devastation. “We saw bodies where the metal had been pushed together and … we cut them out piece by piece. They were trapped in the metal,” he said.
According to Seattletimes.com, the crash happened on a horseshoe-shaped section of track in Chatsworth at the west end of the San Fernando Valley, near a 500-foot-long tunnel underneath Stoney Point Park. There is a siding at one end of the tunnel where one train can wait for another to pass.
“Even if the train is on the main track, it must go through a series of signals and each one of the signals must be obeyed,” Tyrrell said. “What we believe happened, barring any new information from the NTSB, is we believe that our engineer failed to stop … and that was the cause of the accident.”
“We don’t know how the error happened,” she said, adding that Metrolink determined the cause by reviewing dispatch records and computers.
Though it was determined at an NTSB press conference late Saturday that it was potentially too early to determine the cause of the crash, it was noted that the “switches” that control whether a train goes into a siding were open. It was determined that one of them should have been closed.
Tim Smith, state chairman of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, a union representing engineers and conductors, said issues that could factor into the crash investigation could be faulty signals along the track or engineer fatigue.
According to Seattletimes.com, Friday’s train crash was the deadliest since Sept. 22, 1993, when the Sunset Limited, an Amtrak train, plunged off a trestle into a bayou near Mobile, Ala., moments after the trestle was damaged by a towboat; 47 people were killed.
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