Train Crash

I’m so auto-centric that I forget there are people out there who take other modes of transportation. I guess that’s why I was so taken aback to read this story about today’s train crash here in So. Cal. My thoughts go out to everyone’s friends and families involved.

9 Killed As Suburban L.A. Trains Derail

By DAISY NGUYEN, Associated Press Writer

GLENDALE, Calif. – Nine people were killed and more than 100 injured when a Metrolink commuter train crashed into a vehicle at a crossing, derailed and sideswiped another commuter train early Wednesday, authorities said.

More after the jump…

A person described as the driver of the vehicle that was struck was speaking with authorities, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca said. The exact circumstances of the crash were under investigation.

“The cause is someone on the rail in a private vehicle,” Baca said, “which to me is unbelievably tragic because anyone that gets near these trains at railroad crossings ought to know darn well that you don’t put your car on the track and put yourself and all these passengers in harm’s way.”

Firefighters picked through twisted wreckage scattered across the tracks in the suburb north of downtown Los Angeles and carried wounded passengers from the trains to a triage center set up in a nearby parking lot.

“At this time we believe we have nine fatalities,” Los Angeles Fire Chief William Bamattre said. More than 100 were transported to hospitals, he said.

One commuter train was headed from Los Angeles’ Union Station to downtown Burbank, and the other was bound to Union Station from Moorpark, Metrolink officials said. Passengers were sent tumbling down the aisles as the trains derailed.

“I heard a noise. It got louder and louder,” said passenger Diane Brady, 56, of Simi Valley. “And next thing I knew the train tilted, everyone was screaming and I held onto a pole for dear life. I held on for what seemed like a week and a half it seemed. It was a complete nightmare.”

The accident started when a Metrolink train struck a vehicle at a crossing, according to Kathryn Blackwell, a spokeswoman for Union Pacific in Omaha, Neb. One of the Metrolink trains then struck a parked Union Pacific car, tipping it onto its side, she said.

In a light rain, firefighters climbed ladders into windows of a battered train tipped onto its side. Los Angeles fire spokesman Brian Humphrey said firefighters freed about six people from the wreckage and no others were trapped.

Sheriff’s Deputy James Tutino, on his way into work from his home in Simi Valley, was killed in the crash, Baca said. He said Tutino had been with the department for more 23 years.

Dazed passengers, some limping, gathered at tables in a nearby store while the injured sprawled on mats before being whisked away to hospitals by more than 35 ambulances.

Nearly 300 firefighters were at the scene, Humphrey said.

“For me this is the worst train accident that I have ever seen. I’ve never seen anything like it,” Los Angeles fire Capt. Rex Vilaubi told KNBC.

One Metrolink car was sent twisting backward by the force of the crash, which occurred after 6 a.m. near the intersection of San Fernando Road and Chevy Chase Boulevard. A small fire that erupted in the crash was quickly extinguished by firefighters, Humphrey said.

Passenger Amir Hami said he had a backache from his shoulder to his hip.

“All the seats fell apart, people were on the ground. It was major havoc,” he told KNBC-TV. “I thought maybe we hit a car or something.”

George Touma, 19, of Burbank, said he was called by his mother, who was on one of the commuter trains.

“She told me she was bleeding in the head and her arm was really hurting,” said Touma, who was near the scene of the accident searching for her. “I’m really worried because she has vertigo and when I tried to call back she wouldn’t answer.

“She said she remembered hearing sequential loud noises and then somebody pulled her out of the train while it was burning. She was in a panicked mode and now she’s not picking up.”

Union Pacific spokesman John Bromley said the track on which the crash occurred is owned and operated by Metrolink.

Metrolink began service in 1992 and operates seven lines, part of a multibillion-dollar transportation network aimed at reducing pollution and congestion in Southern California.