Metrolink Train Accident Investigation Update: What Caused The Accident & Who is Responsible - Amtrak Train Crash in Washington State

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September 17, 2008


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Following are key events leading up to the deadly head-on collision between Metrolink Train 111 and a Union Pacific freight train.

Focusing on the actions of Metrolink engineer Robert Sanchez, 46, who was killed in the crash along with 24 others, this timeline is based on the latest statements from federal investigators, Metrolink officials, the media and eyewitnesses.

5:54 a.m.: Sanchez begins an 11-hour split shift. His working day is not scheduled to end for another 15 hours.

9:26 a.m.: Sanchez finishes his first shift. Sometime during his 4 1/2-hour break, he takes a two-hour nap.

2 p.m. Sanchez returns to work.

3:30 p.m.: By phone, Sanchez orders a roast beef sandwich from a restaurant near the Moorpark station. He tells them he'll pick it up sometime after 4:45 p.m.

3:35 p.m.: Sanchez departs Union Station on Train 111, the Ventura County commuter line.

4:13 p.m.: The signal north of the Chatsworth Metrolink station is set to red to keep northbound traffic off the main track.

4:16 p.m.: According to the train schedule, Sanchez departs the Chatsworth Metrolink station for the next stop in Simi Valley.

As the signal's red light comes into view, Sanchez fails to inform the conductor by radio that he's approaching a red light.

Traveling at 42 mph, Train 111 chugs by the red signal and then blasts through a closed switch - a heavy gate in the tracks that prevents or
allows trains to move from one track to another. The force of the train bends back the bars on the metal switch.

Train 111 and its 220 passengers and crew are now on a deadly collision course with a southbound Union Pacific freight train hauling 12 boxcars.

Running the red light does not trigger an alarm with the train's dispatch center in Pomona.

The dispatch computer system mistakenly believes Metrolink Train 111 is actually the southbound Union Pacific train carrying three crew members.

4:22 p.m.: Teenagers say they receive a text message from Sanchez. National Transportation Safety Board officials say Sanchez sends and receives text messages while on duty on the day of crash, but they do not specify exactly when.

Rolling along at about 40 mph, the Union Pacific freight train emerges from a 500-foot tunnel underneath Stoney Point Park when its engineer first sees the oncoming Metrolink train.

The two trains are in each other's sight for four to five seconds before crashing.

Two seconds before the collision, the Union Pacific train engineer hits his brakes.

Sanchez never brakes the Metrolink train.

4:23 p.m: The trains collide, thrusting the Metrolink's engine into its first passenger car. Sanchez and many in the first passenger car are killed instantly.

It is so important that train accident victims and their families understand the need to file a lawsuit within the statute of limitations. Lawsuits must be filed and damages must be awarded in order to ensure that accidents like this do not happen again. An experienced attorney can balance the need for justice and compassion for the family.

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