Saturday, September 13, 2008

Metrolink Crash in Chatsworth, CA; 24 Dead, More Expected

Update 3! Death toll now at 25. An unidentified victim has died at a local hospital.

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.

Update!

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.

Update 2!
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

MsNBC

CNN.US

The Associated Press

Fox News

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have been involved in technology in the Silicon valley
since 1986.With todays highly advanced systems,checks and balances,I have difficult time believing that the engineer ran a red light.

I also do not believe that the space shuttle burned up in space due to a piece of foam removing a tile.I think it was a lazer beam from an unidentifide source. I have never again seen footage of that event have you?

Sprocket said...

Not all rail tracks have the checks and balances that the Eastern track systems have. I read a comment on one media report, that NYC's system has automatic safety systems built in, that automatically prevents the train from running a red light signal.

I also read one report that said the conductor was asleep. I've only seen that in one report, so I don't know how accurate it is.

I've seen varying reports the the conductor died and others where he survived.

I haven't heard the laser story before, but I have heard stories about a missile possibly being the cause of an airliner crashing off the NY coastline.

Anonymous said...

Your third picture is more significant than you might think. That 'bend in the tracks' is the point where the double tracks turn into a single track to pass through the tunnel. That signal light on the right is the one that the northbound Metrolink should have stopped at.

Sprocket said...

Thank you anon @ 12:03.

I didn't really look at this photo until I uploaded it on the blog.

Katprint said...

"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."

http://www.ocregister.com/articles/train-metrolink-engineer-2157127-angeles-one

Anonymous said...

i work as a conductor on the east coast. if another engineer (hoghead) was on the lead unit and another cond ( in the body) was allotted this might not have happenned.
There are real-life distractions that happen dailly.As a conductor we have to concentrate on calling slow orders, loading & unloading, answering questions, sell tickets, & being a travel agent plus listen to radio and call back singnals and interpret sig and their meaning. Way too much for 1 person to do. Also do all of this while smiling and being personable.
Management has cut back to the bare minimum. More ppl more checks and more safety.
In this case more eyes & ears would result in better train- handling.