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Transport co. at fault in Metrolink crash?

January 6, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
New allegations came out Tuesday about the deadly Metrolink crash in Chatsworth. Victims who survived last year's crash and attorneys are speaking out about a possible danger supervisors may have known about before the accident happened. In the amended lawsuit filed by a group of lawyers, they're alleging that the company that employed Robert Sanchez, the engineer that was running the Metrolink train that day last September, knew that he was violating company policy when it came to cell-phone use on the job. Lawyers based those allegations on a conversation they say they had with one of Sanchez's co-workers.

Lawyers for more than two dozen victims of last September's Metrolink train crash say they have proof the contractor that employed engineer Robert Sanchez, Veolia Transportation, knew he was violating their company policy by using his cell phone while operating a Metrolink train weeks before the deadly crash.

In their amended lawsuit asking for punitive damages, it's alleged Veolia Transportation did nothing after a Sanchez co-worker complained to company management about Sanchez's cell-phone use while on the job.

"If you believe in common sense in the case, that if you have somebody texting all the time, you've busted him a few months before, within two weeks of the day of the accident a fellow employee calls management, says 'Hey guys, you've got to do something, everybody's at risk, something's going to happen,' that that is a factual manifestation of conscious disregard of the safety of the passengers," said attorney Edward Pfiester.

Two survivors from both the 2005 Glendale crash and last September's Metrolink crash expressed anger over these new allegations.

"There's been a disregard for the safety factor which I think should be a number one priority," said train crash survivor Nicholas Cotsis. "Because you've got one person in charge of hundreds of people that commute on this Metrolink, and you got one person that's supposedly in charge of watching signals, communicating, supposed to be doing his job, and apparently this individual was not doing his job."

"We have strict cell-phone policies that are strongly enforced," according to a statement released by Veolia Transportation. It adds: "The National Transportation Safety Board, NTSB, has asked us not to comment about Robert Sanchez while the crash is still under investigation, and we don't comment on pending litigation."

Federal investigators have said Sanchez was texting 22 seconds before the Metrolink and freight trains collided, killing 25 people and injuring 135.

It may be a few years before the cases involving last September's train crash actually go to court. According to lawyers representing a number of clients from the 2005 Glendale Metrolink crash, about half of those cases have been resolved. The rest are due to go to trial later this year, nearly four years after the crash.


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