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Farewell to cop killed in train wreck

<div class="meta image-caption"><div class="origin-logo origin-image ap"><span>AP</span></div><span class="caption-text">Officials do not rule out the possibility of the death toll rising in the Metrolink crash. (AP Photo Hector Mata)</span></div>
911 calls from the day of the collision released
September 18, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
LAPD Officer Spree Desha, 35, was a highly respected seven-year veteran of the force. When her body was removed from the wreckage, LAPD officers stood solemnly and saluted.A symbolic riderless horse walked in front of the hearse carrying Desha's body. Her domestic partner, who was also a police officer, and her devastated family members gathered outside the cathedral.

Dozens of LAPD officers lined the streets as the casket was carried into Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral in downtown Los Angeles.

She worked at the operations center at the headquarters in downtown. She had been heading home when the Metrolink commuter train crashed head-on into a freight train last Friday, killing 25 people including Desha. Another 135 people were injured.

The procession started at LAPD Parker Center at 8:45 a.m. and headed along San Pedro to Temple, and continued from Temple to the cathedral, and the service started at 9:30 a.m.

Colleagues remembered Desha as a hardworking officer who loved her job.

As the investigation continues, authorities have released some of the 911 calls made by passengers moments after the deadly crash.

"I was on the Metorlink train. We had a collision with something. We have a whole bunch of people who are now bleeding and on the floor," one caller says.

"Do you know how many people are hurt?" the operators says.

"Well I can see about seven or eight people in the one car I'm in that are bleeding and on the floor," the caller says.

Another caller was told to move back because of a threat of an explosion from the freight train.

Immediately after the crash, dispatchers were flooded with calls, some from nearby residents, but mostly from passengers from the commuter train.

"The first car, looks like it's completely destroyed. I bet you're going to have a lot of fatalities there," said another caller to the dispatcher.

During another released 911 call, the dispatcher asked the caller who was screaming in the background.

"That's a person who was in a wheelchair who flew down the stairs from the top down to the bottom," the caller responded.

Authorities have now confirmed that the Metrolink train engineer Robert Sanchez was text messaging while on duty on the day of the crash. The 46-year-old engineer was killed in the collision.

The National Transportation Safety Board requested his phone records after two teenagers said they exchanged text messages with him shortly before the crash.

The NTSB is not saying how many messages were found in the records, but it was reported that one was received a minute before the crash.

NTSB investigators are also looking at every aspect of Sanchez's personal life history. He was first employed 12 years ago as an engineer at Union Pacific. Then he went Amtrak. Then, in 2005, he was hired by the company that provides engineers to Metrolink.

Investigators seek to find answers to why an experienced train engineer would ignore so many obvious warnings -- red signal lights, a rumble and shaking when the train rolled through a closed switch -- and then fail to brake when he saw the oncoming freight.

Investigators are also looking into whether Sanchez had any physical ailments at the time of the crash.

"The engineer reported to the conductor that he had a two-hour nap during his mid-day break," said Higgins. "The conductor was not aware of any physical ailments that the engineer had. The conductor had no information on medication that the engineer might be taking."

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.

    The L.A. County Department of Mental Health is offering free counseling for people affected by the deadly Metrolink train crash. Two centers will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. beginning Tuesday.

    San Fernando Valley Mental Health Center
    10605 Balboa Blvd., Ste. 100
    Granada Hills, CA 91344
    (818) 832-2400

    West Valley Mental Health Center
    7621 Canoga Ave.
    Canoga Park, CA 91304
    (818) 598-6900

     

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