NTSB confirms Metrolink train operator Robert Sanchez had been sending text messages prior to crash - Amtrak Train Crash in Washington State

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September 18, 2008


Sanchez had driven Metrolink trains since 1996 and had worked as an Amtrak locomotive engineer from 1998 to 2005.

At the time of the crash, Sanchez was employed by Connex Railroad, a subsidiary of Veolia Transportation that operates Metrolink routes.

Sanchez worked an untenable schedule of 11-hour days, five days a week in split shifts.

The real question is what the train operator did the night and days before. By Friday, you would be very tired if you had one late night during the week. Also, the cell phone is only one possible distraction among many that might cause a train engineer to miss a signal. What other safety measures were in place. Did Veolia and Metrolink provide back-up to Sanchez if he happened to be distracted?

Metrolink's top executive told Congress last year that proposals to increase minimum off-duty time for rail workers were unnecessary for commuter systems contending that fatigue does not affect safety.

Commuter train workers often work split shifts because of morning and evening peak passenger loads with interim rest hours.

How much sleep can a engineer get driving home for a four hour break. Naps make people sleepy. The 4 hour break argument is non-sense.

Fatigue caused by the irregular and often long work schedules of train crews has been a persistent and deadly problem in the railroad industry despite decades of study. Safety regulators have called for measures that would require railroads to provide longer rest periods between shifts.

At 4:23 pm Friday, the trains, each traveling about 40 mph, slammed together on a curving section of track near Chatsworth. The force of the collision sent the locomotive of the Metrolink train back through the adjoining passenger car. ...

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