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Trains' black boxes recovered from crash

September 15, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Metrolink's top spokesperson, Denise Tyrrell, quit her job Monday in a dispute over how information about Friday's deadly train crash was made public. A commuter train and a Union Pacific freight train collided in Chatsworth Friday afternoon, trapping passengers inside at least three Metrolink cars, one of which caught fire.

Metrolink spokeswoman Denise Tyrrell announced that she was resigning. Tyrrell had made the shocking announcement Saturday that it was a Metrolink engineer that caused the crash that killed 25 people and injured more than a hundred on Friday.

Tyrrell's decision comes after the board's closed-door session Sunday, ruling that she did not have the authority to release that information.

Federal investigators are now working to determine exactly why the conductor of the train didn't stop at a red signal.

The cleanup at the site has gone forward very rapidly. The charred Metrolink locomotive and the smashed lead car were removed. The other cars of both the freight and the commuter trains were put back on the rails and rolled away. Rail crews have put down new track, ready to open, but the environmental cleanup continues. Investigators are still walking the line. Metrolink says commuter rail service won't be reestablished until Wednesday. Metrolink is still hauling passengers by bus from the Chatsworth station to Moorpark and Simi Valley.

The physical scars of Friday's head-on train collision are rapidly disappearing as crews prepare to reopen the busy rail line. As they worked, investigators Monday morning checked the signal system between the Chatsworth station and the crash site. They seemed to be working just fine.

The rails narrow from two tracks to one. Sunday, an NTSB board member said the Metrolink engineer who should have stopped to let the Union Pacific freight train pass, ignored or did not see a red signal and kept going onto the single track.

"We've also determined that the signal was red, and therefore the train went through a red signal," said NTSB Board Member Kitty Higgins. Higgins said NTSB investigators are looking at phone records to confirm reports that train enthusiasts were exchanging text messages with the engineer just before the crash.

"We have been in contact with those young men and their families," said Higgins. "They've been fully cooperative, we are working with them, and we are going to be obtaining records from their cell phones and from the cell phones of the deceased engineer."

The NTSB says radio tapes show no communication between the engineer, who was killed in the collision, and the Metrolink conductor on board the train, to confirm the state of the signals.

Higgins said there could have been a dead spot in the radio reception.

"There was a yellow signal -- there was a yellow flashing that was called out and confirmed. There was then a yellow signal, and then there was the red signal," said Higgins. "We don't have any recording of a call-out or confirmation for those last two signals."

Higgins said all this could have been avoided if railroads, including Metrolink, added a safety system called "Positive Train Control" (PTC). PTC automatically stops a train if an engineer fails to apply the brakes at a red signal light.

Monday afternoon, the L.A. Coroner's Office identified that train engineer as Robert Sanchez, 46. He lived in Crestline.

All three "black boxes" from the two trains have been recovered, as well as the video from a camera that was inside the cab of the Union Pacific freight. Presumably it shows that collision in real time.

- Get information on railway closures by visiting the Metrolink Web site here.

The Los Angeles County Coroner's office released a list of people killed in the crash.

  • Christopher Aiken, 38
  • Dennis Arnold, 75
  • Dean Lafoy Brower, 51
  • Alan Lloyd Buckley, 59
  • Yi Chao, 71
  • Spree Desha, 35
  • Walter Arney Fuller, 54
  • Ronald Grace, 55
  • Michael Hammersly, 45
  • Jacob Hefter, 18
  • Kari Hsieh, no age given
  • Paul Long, no age given
  • Roger Spacey, 60
  • Ernest Stephen Kish II, 47
  • Gregory Lintner, 48
  • Manuel Macias, 31
  • Aida Magdaleno, 19
  • Beverly Mosely, 57
  • Charles Peck, 58
  • Howard Barry Pompel, 69
  • Donna Ramata, 49
  • Robert Sanchez, 46
  • Doyle Jay Souser, 56
  • Maria Elenea Villalobos, 18
  • Atul Vyas, 20
  • The City of Los Angeles announced a new public hotline number is now available for those impacted by Friday's Metrolink train accident. That number is (800) 854-7771, select option 2. The new hotline is staffed 24 hours by the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health. Families and friends can get information about the whereabouts of a loved one involved in the accident. In addition, survivors of the accident, their families or anyone having difficulty in dealing with this tragedy can get referrals and resources for crisis counseling.

     

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