Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Commuter Train Derails in Glendale

10 Dead, Numerous Injuries GLENDALE � At least 10 people were believed to have died today in a chain-reaction crash between two Metrolink trains and a Union Pacific locomotive that apparently involved an SUV on the tracks, officials said. Los Angeles Fire Chief Bill Bamattre said about 100 people were transported to area hospitals -- as many as five emergency centers reportedly were involved -- and up to 200 may have been hurt. Most of the injuries were said to be minor, but at least nine people were said to have been hurt critically. An angry Sheriff Lee Baca said one of his deputies, a 23-year veteran identified as James Tutino, died in the crash while in uniform and on his way to work aboard one of the trains. According to initial accounts, one of the trains was headed south from the suburbs, and the other was going north. The outbound train's rear end apparently swung outward and clipped the inbound train. At some point a stationary Union Pacific locomotive apparently was knocked off the tracks by the impact of one of the Metrolink trains. Baca suggested that someone in a Jeep Cherokee was on the tracks and caused the disaster, though numerous investigations were just beginning in an attempt to sort out forensically what happened. A battalion chief could be seen holding a crumpled license plate at one point during the rescue operation. "The cause is someone on the rail in a private vehicle ..." Baca said. "You don't put your car on the track and put yourself in harm's way and all these passengers in harm's way. This is a complete outrage ... " He said the driver of the SUV is alive. Baca said there would be a coordinated effort to try to sort out what caused the crash, but "We do know this: there was a private vehicle initially hit on the track. We've seen enough evidence of that." The accident occurred about 6 a.m. near San Fernando Road and Chevy Chase Drive, on the border of Los Angeles and Glendale. Brian Humphrey of the LAFD said firefighters arrived at 6:03 a.m. Director Carol Meyer of the Los Angeles County EMS Agency, part of the Department of Health Services, said at least nine people were initially assessed as being critically injured, and 62 other "non-critical" patients were taken to area hospitals. That was a lower number than fire officials gave later. Meyer said physicians were seeing crush-type injuries like those encountered in traffic crashes. She said patients had head, chest and abdominal injuries. Humphrey said the vast majority of the injured were "walking wounded" with minor injuries. He said some may have even gone on to work from the crash site. Color-coded triage mats -- red for the most critically injured, followed by yellow, then green -- were spread out to sort the injured. Just after 8 a.m., Humphrey said the LAFD was already beginning to scale back its rescue operation. He said all of the cars had been "cleared," that they had been searched from front to back and that there were no more victims. But LAFD fire Chief Bill Bamattre said minutes later that a fresh search team with "new eyes" would go back over the wreckage again, to make sure no one had been overlooked. By some accounts, five "passes" had already been made through the wreckage. Victims who spoke with reporters said they found themselves flying through the air inside the cars after impact, then stacked like cord wood on top of each other. Passenger Dave Morrison spoke to reporters at the scene. He said he had caught a train at 5:19 a.m. in Simi Valley. He said most of the three cars on that train were about half-filled. He said he always gets into the rear car. "I was in the best car. There were no major injuries in ours." Morrison said his car did not overturn, that it simply left the tracks. He said he could see fire ahead of him in one of the derailed cars as he looked out the window. "We had just left Burbank or Glendale, or (were in) between," he said. Another couple said it was a scary experience. The man said rescue teams "did a great job. They were there early. They cut the fence. They got to us right away. That's why they're there." A large contingent of firefighters -- from Los Angeles, Glendale and Burbank -- rushed to the scene. Firefighters could be seen spreading the triage mats. Dozens of ambulances were parked nearby, waiting to take the most seriously injured to area hospitals. Glendale and Burbank firefighters approached the wreckage from the east side of the tracks to remove injured victims, while Los Angeles city firefighters did the same thing on the west side, said Los Angeles Fire Department Battalion Chief Brian Schultz. "We took the injured off of both sides," said Schultz. "We set up a unified command post out in front of the Costco here ... and we set up different groups. "We set up rescue groups, a fire group and we set up a medical group. And basically, we worked this on a large scale incident, like you would with an automobile accident, only on a much larger scale," he said. The Los Angeles Police Department, meanwhile, declared a citywide tactical alert, allowing commanders to keep officers on the job beyond the end of their shifts. The accident happened near a Costco and a Toys R Us store. "It sounded like thunder," Karen Mendoza, a Costco employee who called 911 after the crash, told ABC7 Eyewitness News. Jeff Vergeldedios, a passenger on one of the trains, told ABC7 Eyewitness News that passengers became aware of something wrong when "we felt a short jolt on the car." He said the impact threw him out of his seat. Not many people on his train panicked, Vergeldedios said, adding that those who could get out of the car did so in orderly fashion. Meyer said the accident "fortunately" occurred at shift change for the fire departments, enabling supervisors to keep personnel over to assist with 911 calls as their colleagues went to the crash site. Fire officials said their departments drill annually with the Metrolink for such an eventuality. The National Transportation Safety Board was expected to eventually take over the investigation into the cause of the crash. It usually takes the NTSB about a year to issue a final report on such disasters. abc local ----------- All because of a daymn SUV! People died, and a bunch of injuries cause of a daymn SUV. I hope that person will go to jail, since he is still alive... *I'm not bitching cause I was stuck on the freeway since all the roads were closed off--i'd much rather go through 2 hours of traffic than be one of the unfortunate ones...

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