Approximately 4:30 pm Friday afternoon a northbound Metrolink 111 commuter train failed to stop at a red light right before the 500 ft. tunnel underneath Stoney Point Park, colliding head on into a Union Pacific freight train. Both trains were traveling at approximately 40 mph. In Los Angeles County, it's common for freight and passenger trains to utilize the same tracks. The triple decked train originated in downtown Los Angeles. Reports differ as to the number of passengers, somewhere between 220 and 225. According to LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, of the 135 injured passengers, 81 were taken to local hospitals, many in critical condition.
LA County Coroner's Assistant Chief, Ed Winter stated that the death count does not include bodies than can be seen in the lower levels that have not been recovered yet. The total number of fatalities is still unknown at this time. This could end up being the worst rail disaster in California history. Chatsworth is just a few miles up the road from me.
Metrolink spokeswoman, Denise Tyrell states the preliminary cause of the crash is the engineer of the commuter train failed to stop at a red light to let the southbound freight train pass.
I will try to bring you updates as I learn more about this terrible accident.
I left the house earlier today to see if I could get close to the crash site, and maybe have a far away photo for the blog. I drove up Sepulveda Blvd. to Sherman Way where I crossed the San Fernando Valley. When I reached Canoga Ave, I turned north. Where Canoga passes Chatsworth St., I saw my first road closure.
You had to show ID to prove you lived in the area. A few yard to the left of Canoga Ave., even the tracks were roped off.
With my meager lens, I zoomed in as far as I could down the tracks. You can't see anything of the crash in this photo because it occurred after the bend. You can barely see more crime scene tape across the tracks.
I decided to try to get closer on the west side of the tracks. I traveled down Chatsworth St. to Owensmouth and turned right. A few blocks in, police were blocking access at the Andora intersection.
I then thought that maybe I could try to get to the area through the park. I got back on Chatsworth St. and headed towards Topanga Canyon. At Topanga, the road was closed to all north bound traffic. Dejected, I headed home. Authorities have stated that the recovery phase of the operation has ended. The investigation into the cause of the crash may not release a report until next year. There are some excellent photos at MyFoxLA.
The LA Times is reporting:
Friday's disastrous collision that took the lives of at least 25 people could have been prevented if Metrolink and the region's freight railroads had installed sophisticated warning and control devices, according to safety experts who have been calling for such improvements for decades.
The National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates crashes and recommends ways to avoid them, began calling for the technology 30 years ago, after a train wreck in Louisiana. The safety board has repeatedly advocated the technology for high-risk corridors where freight and passenger trains operate side by side.
Update 3! September 14th
Thanks to our reader katprint, T&T for directing us to the latest article in the OC Register.
From the article:
A teenage train enthusiast said he got a cell phone text message from the engineer of a Metrolink train about a minute before the train collided head-on with a freight train near Chatsworth, killing at least 25 people, CBS2 reported Saturday.
A Metrolink official said it was "unbelievable" that anyone would text while driving a train.
But Nick Williams, who lives near the crash site, said he exchanged three text messages with the engineer Friday afternoon, the last one at 4:22 p.m., about a minute before the trains collided.If Williams's allegations turn out to be true, this will be a terrible turn of events. How many stories have we heard of teenagers texting while driving, the end result causing a deadly accident. Doing it while in charge of a passenger train makes it an activity that is a hundred times more deadly.
LA Times Map of Crash Site
The Associated Press