Nine dead as commuter trains derail in Glendale, California


Investigators examine the wreckage from a train derailment Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2005, in Glendale, Calif. A Metrolink commuter train struck a vehicle, derailed and sideswiped another train early Wednesday, killing several people and injuring more than 100 others, authorities said.

AP Photo/Ric Francis
Published: Wednesday, January 26, 2005 at 11:40 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 26, 2005 at 1:41 p.m.

GLENDALE, Calif. (AP) - A Metrolink train crashed into an SUV that was apparently parked on the tracks Wednesday, derailing and sideswiping another commuter train, authorities said. Nine people were killed and more than 100 others injured.

Cars from both Metrolink trains derailed and some landed on their sides, sending passengers tumbling down the aisles, authorities said.

Los Angeles Sheriff Lee Baca said authorities were speaking with the driver of the vehicle and believe it was intentionally parked on the tracks.

"It didn't appear that the vehicle had stalled," Baca said. "It appears that it was deliberately placed there."

The exact circumstances of the crash, including the driver's motive, were still under investigation. The National Transportation Safety Board was sending a team.

Firefighters picked through twisted wreckage and carried wounded passengers from the trains to a triage center set up in a nearby parking lot.

"At this time, we believe we have nine fatalities," Fire Chief William Battmare said. More than 100 people were taken to hospitals, he said.

One commuter train was headed from Los Angeles' Union Station to downtown Burbank, and the other was bound to Union Station from Moorpark, Metrolink officials said.

"I heard a noise. It got louder and louder," said passenger Diane Brady, 56, of Simi Valley. "And next thing I knew the train tilted, everyone was screaming and I held onto a pole for dear life. I held on for what seemed like a week and a half, it seemed. It was a complete nightmare."

In a light rain, firefighters climbed ladders into windows of a battered train tipped onto its side.

Nearly 300 firefighters were at the scene in the suburb north of Los Angeles and 35 ambulances were taking injured passengers to hospitals, officials said.

Dazed passengers, some limping, gathered at tables in a nearby store, while the injured sprawled on color-coded mats in the parking lot: red for those with severe injuries, green for those less seriously harmed.

One of the dead passengers was identified as a 23-year veteran of Baca's department, Sheriff's Deputy James Tutino.

As the cars tumbled off the tracks, one of the Metrolink trains struck a parked Union Pacific car, tipping it onto its side, said Kathryn Blackwell, a railroad spokeswoman in Omaha, Neb.

One Metrolink car was sent twisting backward by the force of the crash, which occurred after 6 a.m. A small fire erupted, and smoke could be seen wafting from the wreckage.

George Touma, 19, of Burbank, said he was called by his mother, who was on one of the Metrolink trains.

"She told me she was bleeding in the head and her arm was really hurting," said Touma, who was searching for her. "I'm really worried because she has vertigo and when I tried to call back she wouldn't answer." He said she told him of hearing "sequential loud noises and then somebody pulled her out of the train while it was burning."

Metrolink began service in 1992 and operates seven lines, part of a multibillion-dollar transportation network aimed at reducing pollution and congestion in Southern California.

On Jan. 6, a freight train derailed at Graniteville, S.C., sending up a toxic cloud of chlorine gas from a damaged tank car. Nine people were killed, 250 were injured and thousands were forced to evacuate their homes.

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