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LA Train Crash Engineer Ran Stop Signal

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Investigators at the scene of a fatal Los Angeles commuter train crash are trying to figure out why the train’s engineer ignored a stop signal last Friday afternoon, setting the stage for a head-on collision with a oncoming freight train.  The Metolink crash, one of the nation’s deadliest train accidents, killed 25 people and injued 138.

The commuter train was traveling at 42 mph at the time of the crash.  Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said on Sunday that the Metrolink train failed to stop at the final red signal, which forced the train onto a track where the Union Pacific freight was traveling in the opposite direction.  Investigators have yet to determine  whether the signal was working properly.  Nevertheless, obeying signals on the track was the responsibility of the engineer driving the train.

According to Metrolink, one of its dispatchers tried to warn the commuter train that it was heading for a crash with the freight train, but by the time the conductor on the Metrolink got the message, the collision had already occurred.  However, the NTSB reported an alternative version of events, saying that the Metrolink conductor called in the crash before the dispatcher could issue the warning.

The NTSB also said that audio recordings from the commuter train indicate a period of silence as it passed the last two signals before the fiery wreck, a time when the engineer and the conductor should have been going through verbal safety checks.

Over the weekend, a Los Angeles TV station reported that two 14-year-old boys had received a text message from the engineer in the moments before the crash.  Both the engineer’s and the boys’ cell phone records are being sought by the NTSB.

The fatal Metrolink train crash occurred around 4:22 on Friday, near Chatsworth, California, at the west end of the San Fernando Valley.  Officials said 220 people were aboard the Metrolink train, which was heading from Union Station in downtown Los Angeles to Ventura County.  The impact of the collision rammed the commuter train’s  engine backward, jamming it deep into the first passenger car.  The Associated Press is reporting that the Metrolink train was so mangled that some bodies had to be removed in pieces.

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