LOS ANGELES (AP) - The conductor aboard the Metrolink train that
collided with a freight in September told investigators the warning
light along the track was green before the crash that killed 25
people, his attorney said Thursday.
The claim contradicts findings from federal investigators that
the Metrolink train ran a red light and caused the wreck - the
nation's deadliest rail disaster in 15 years. The National
Transportation Safety Board has said three tests showed the signal
system was working.
Conductor Robert Heldenbrand told investigators he saw the green
light as the train was leaving a station about a mile from the
crash with the Union Pacific freight, said John Gilbert,
"He checked the platform prior to the (train) doors closing to
make sure there were no more passengers," Gilbert said in a Los
Angeles Times story. "That's when he observed the green light."
Gilbert said he was with Heldenbrand when he was interviewed by
Metrolink spokesman Francisco Oaxaca would not comment on the
details of the investigation and could not say if the signal could
have turned red after the train left the station.
However, he said that because trains are heavy and difficult to
stop quickly, "the system tells you what to do, two or three
Investigators said engineer Robert Sanchez, who was killed in
the collision, was supposed to stop the train at the red signal
just before a switch intended to guide the freight train onto a
side rail. Instead, Sanchez passed the switch at 42 mph before
colliding head-on with the freight on a curve about a quarter-mile
farther, according to federal investigators.
Cell phone records show Sanchez was text messaging 22 seconds
before the crash.