Metrolink Train Crash Accident Probe: Investigation To Examine Text Messages - Amtrak Train Crash in Washington State

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September 15, 2008


The National Transportation Safety Board says they've found evidence of missed safety checks, but it'll be months before they determine the cause. The NTSB also reported that audio recordings on the train are missing required verbal safety checks between the Sanchez and the conductor in the seconds before the crash.

Higgins said the recordings show the two called out and confirmed light signals along the route, but the tapes are missing calls for the last two lights the train passed.

The pictures inside the cab window of the Metrolink engine on the engineers side in the LA Times establish that the train was in an emergency stop. Thus, the engineer could not have been suffering from a medical problem which precluded him from operating or stopping the train.

The accident took place on tracks that are owned, maintained and controlled (i.e. dispatched) by Metrolink.

What about the fact that the dispatcher is supposed to know where oncoming train are. The engineer was not required to know where the freight was or where the two trains would come together. The Metrolink dispatcher's job is know this. The Metrolink engineer must observe and comply with signals. Nothing more, nothing less. it appears the engineer may not have complied with the signals. We will need to see what responsibility, if any, the Metrolink dispatcher has in this train crash.

Investigators have not yet interviewed the four surviving crew members from the trains because of their injuries. When they are interviewed, we may find out more.

According to general rules at NJT, no eletronic devices are to be used while on duty unless it pertains to out jobs such as radios. All engineers are to keep their cell phones off while running. I think the rule has some merit by eliminating the temptations of cell phones which in return could result in death. I personally have examined my own behavior at work since this crash and will make changes. It only takes a second to make a fatal mistake.

54-year-old Paul Long, of Moorpark, in Ventura County was just a few minutes away from his stop when the Chatsworth train accident occurred. He was traveling with his wife and 16-year-old son, Devin. Long taught English at Oaks Christian College, and was an active member of the church. Devin remembers coming to after the train accident and seeing his mother trying in vain to wake his father up.

Manuel Acosta Macias, a 31-year-old former Marine taught yoga to the visually impaired and other physically challenged people. He was an accidental passenger on board the ill-fated Metrolink train – he had missed his usual train, and had to catch this train instead. Macias has his weekend full – he was scheduled to take a group of senior citizens out to Santa Barbara. It wasn’t to be.

20-year-old Atul Vyas was a brilliant student, and had been in the process of filling out application forms to medical school at Harvard and Duke. His parents described him as a “thoroughly brilliant kid.”

19-year-old Aida Magdaleno was the only one of her family to be born in Mexico, but was more American than the rest of them. The daughter of orchard workers, she was a sociology major who had big plans to give back to the country that gave her so much.

These were just a few names of the 25 who left behind loved ones. Our deepest sympathies to the families of those who lost a family member in the Los Angeles Metrolink train crash.

As an attorney who litigates accident cases all the time, I can tell you that cell phones are a major reason for injuries and death. I understand that Metrolink says it had a policy against cell phone usage. The real question for lawyers who will litigate these cases, assuming there was cell phone usage which caused the train accident, is how strictly the policy was enforced, how well the engineers were trained and whether management 'looked the other way.'

Was the Metrolink engineer texting when he should have been stopping at the signal?

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