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Memorial marks 3-year anniversary of Chatsworth train crash

September 12, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Three years ago Monday, a Metrolink train crashed in Chatsworth, killing 25 people. Relatives of the victims are pleading with people to stop texting behind the wheel.

Relatives of those who lost their lives on that day gathered to honor them in Simi Valley Monday.

A Metrolink train pulled into the Simi Valley station Monday afternoon at the time Train 111 was supposed to arrive on this day three years ago.

On September 12, 2008, a Metrolink train carrying 222 passengers collided head-on with a Union Pacific freight train in Chatsworth, killing 24 passengers, the engineer and injuring 135 others.

Monday more than a dozen victims and family members gathered to remember the tragic day.

The Metrolink engineer who died in the crash, Robert Sanchez, was sending text messages in the minutes leading up to the crash. Investigators say he was distracted and missed a red signal to stop the train.

A 1997 federal law caps liability damages for railroads at $200 million.

Some family members and crash survivors are upset with the settlement amount they are to receive as a result of the cap.

In Palmdale Monday, the city's mayor proclaimed it "Don't Text and Drive Day" in honor of Jacob Hefter, an 18-year-old from Palmdale who died in the crash.

Hefter's family displayed the SUV Jacob used to drive. It's become a moving message about not texting and driving, and more than 2,200 people have signed the vehicle as a pledge to make the right choice.

"We don't want others to suffer what we have suffered. We want people to make sure that they're making positive choices in life," said Angela Hefter, Jacob's mother.

Metrolink officials say they have installed video cameras inside locomotives to monitor engineers. They also plan to activate an automatic train-stop system that would allow them to actually stop a train, even if an engineer fails to acknowledge a red signal.

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