Engineer Texted Before Deadly Train Crash - InformationWeek

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3/3/2009
12:51 PM
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Engineer Texted Before Deadly Train Crash

Safety board is investigating whether gadget use contributed to the accident.

The engineer of a Metrolink commuter train that ran a stoplight before smashing into a freight train in an accident that left 25 people dead sent a text message less than 25 seconds before the crash, according to documents released this week.

Several factors led up to the deadly head-on train collision between a commuter train and a freight train in Chatsworth, Calif., last September, according to documents released by the National Transportation Safety Board. The documents contain information related to the crash, but the NTSB has not identified the cause of the accident. They were released to coincide with public hearings held this week to obtain witness testimony as part of the investigation.

The documents show that the engineer received a text message less than two minutes before colliding with a Union Pacific freight train and sent a text message just moments before the accident, which occurred at 4:22 p.m. PDT. They show that the engineer, Robert Sanchez, sent and received about a dozen text messages in the hour and 20 minutes leading up to the crash and 57 while on duty that day. He died in the crash along with 24 others. About 135 people were injured.

The investigation is focusing on the use of electronic devices, as well as whether signal lights functioned properly and whether the engineer allowed people in the cab in violation of railroad policies. The Los Angeles Times interviewed the one surviving crew member and reported that the crew member said the light never turned red.

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