Commuter Train, Freight Collide in Los Angeles

By: Thomas Watkins AP
By: Thomas Watkins AP

LOS ANGELES (AP) - A Metrolink commuter train believed to be carrying up to 350 people collided with a freight train Friday, killing two people and injuring an unknown number of others.

Firefighters put out a fire under part of the wreckage and pulled people from a Metrolink car, which was partly torn open and left lying on its side. Several other cars in the Metrolink train remained upright.

The engine of the Union Pacific freight was left on its side, with the rest of the train accordioned behind it.

Los Angeles County sheriff's Deputy Byron Ward said two people were confirmed dead.

Authorities had no immediate injury count, but county fire Inspector Ron Haralson said he was certain they were numerous. Firefighters treated the injured at three triage areas near the wreck.

Haralson said the trains collided at 4:32 p.m. in the Chatsworth area of the San Fernando Valley.

Metrolink spokeswoman Denise Tyrrell said the train left Union Station in downtown Los Angeles and was headed northwest to Moorpark in Ventura County. She couldn't confirm how many people were on the train, but said that in rush hours there would usually be about 350 people on board.

"We don't know if we hit another train or another train hit us," Tyrrell said.

She said the Metrolink train was being pulled by its locomotive rather than being pushed. The push mode is controversial due to claims that it makes trains more vulnerable in accidents.

Firefighters pulled passengers out a rear door and down a ladder from the Metrolink car lying on its side, separated from the rest of the train by several feet. Crumpled and charred freight cars were strewn across the tracks. Dazed and injured passengers sat on the ground and milled about on both sides of the tracks.

The crash happened in an area where the tracks form a "U" shape, about 2,500 feet wide. At the top of the bend is a 500-foot long tunnel that runs beneath Stoney Point Park, popular with climbers for its large boulders.

The worst disaster in Metrolink's history occurred on Jan. 26, 2005, in suburban Glendale when a man parked a gasoline-soaked SUV on railroad tracks. A Metrolink train struck the SUV and derailed, striking another Metrolink train traveling the other way, killing 11 people and injuring about 180 others. Juan Alvarez was convicted this year of murder for causing the crash.
Associated Press Writers Raquel Maria Dillon, Greg Risling,
Denise Petski, Josh Dickey, James Beltran and John Rogers
contributed to this report.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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