Here in the United States, most of us don’t give trains a second thought – unless we are stuck waiting for one to pass at a railroad crossing. Unlike, Europe and Asia, we are not nearly as dependant on trains for transportation. Having said that, it might surprise you to find out that in the year 2008 Amtrak alone served 28.7 million passengers. In addition to Amtrak, there are a variety of regional railroads that operate commuter services. Metrolink is one such commuter service that operates in southern California. You may also be surprised to find out how often a train collision or derailment actually occurs. There are a staggering 13,000 railroad related accidents every year according to the Federal Railroad Administration’s Office of Safety Analysis. That breaks down to about once every hour and a half there is a train collision or derailing. Even more shocking is the fact that around 1000 deaths a year and 8,000 non-fatal injuries can be attributed to train accidents. One reason that these statistics are so shocking is that we don’t here much about train accidents or derailments unless they produce catastrophic results. That was the case in September of 2008. At a little after 4:00 in the afternoon of September 12, 2008, a Metrolink commuter train collided head-on with a Union Pacific freight train resulting in the deadliest accident in Metrolink’s history, according to Emery Ledger, of Ledger and Associates, who is representing on the plaintiffs that was seriously injured in the collision.
According to the investigation completed by the National Transportation Safety Board, the collision was the result of the failure of the Metrolink train to heed a red signal when approaching a section of track. The Metrolink train left Union Station in downtown Los Angeles at 3:35 p.m. heading west to surburban Ventura County. At approximately 4:05 p.m. it left the Chatsworth station with 222 people on board. Less than 2 miles later, the Metrlink train failed to stop at the red light as required. The Metrolink’s failure to stop resulted in the Metrolink and the Union Pacific trains heading toward each other on a single track which ultimately ended in a head-on collision. The sheer magnitude of the collision and the resulting deaths and injuries drained both the City of Los Angeles and the County of Los Angeles’ emergency response teams and equipment. The final death toll was 25 with significantly more people seriously injured and/or hospitalized.
So why did the Metrolink’s train engineer fail to obey the red signal? Apparently he was distracted by the text messages he was sending and receiving. Records released by the NTSB’s investigation revealed that the train’s engineer, Robert M. Sanchez, exchanged 45 text messages while en route for his morning run. On his afternoon run, shortly before the collision took place, he apparently received seven messages and sent five – the last message coming in less than a minute before the collision. Los Angeles personal injury attorney Emery Ledger of Ledger & Associates says that this is a “tragic example of the dangers of texting while driving”.
Our hearts go out to all the victims and families of those that lost their lives that fateful day in 2008. If you have any questions regarding train accidents or the Chatsworth accident specifically, Emery Ledger can be reached at 1-800-300-0001 or contacted online at www.ledgerlaw.com