Friday, September 12, 2008

Metrolink Crash in Chatsworth; LA Times Says 15 Dead

(Photo by Hector Mata/AP)

Our thoughts go out to the families of those Metrolink riders impacted by tonight's crash in Chatsworth. KABC/7 is reporting that 10 people are confirmed dead, while the L.A. Times says the death toll is closer to 15, and could still rise.

LAObserved has a possible explanation on what might have happened:

A source with good connections in the transit agencies emails that Ventura-bound Metrolink train #111 typically waits at the Chatsworth station until the southbound Union Pacific freight train from up the coast passes by about 4:15. For some reason, today the passenger train proceeded up the tracks from Chatsworth and smacked head-on into the freight train. "There is no question" the freight train would have the right of way on that stretch of track, he says.

LAist has been posting excellent coverage and photos by editor Zach Behrens, who was on the scene, and Lindsay William-Ross.

And a Wikipedia page has already been started.

This brings us back to January 2005, when a Metrolink train crashed into a truck parked on the tracks at the border between Atwater Village and Glendale. That crash, which killed 11 people, was the deadliest in Metrolink history -- although that may be surpassed once the final death toll from today's accident is determined. Juan Manuel Alvarez, who parked his truck on the tracks and caused the accident, was sentenced just last month to eleven consecutive life sentences in prison with no possibility of parole.

Maria and I remember it well... Evan was still a newborn, and we were sleeping in his room when we heard siren after siren racing to the scene. Later, when I tried to get to an early morning meeting on time, the streets out of Glendale were impossibly clogged. It was chaos.

In that crash, the train was pushed (with the engine in the back) -- and the people hurt the most were in the front. In today's crash, the people who were able to walk away with minimal injuries were mostly in the back train, while the people most injured were in the front (even though the train's engine was in the front). Yet another reminder that if you're going to take a train, make sure you're in one of the last cars -- and facing backward.

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