Driver of truck hit by California train to appear in court

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 26, 2015 7:04 AM

By Dana Feldman

VENTURA, Calif. (Reuters) - The driver of a truck that was hit by a California commuter train in a wreck that injured 50 people is set to appear in court on Thursday.

Jose Alejandro Sanchez-Ramirez, 54, was found walking and "in distress" more than a mile (1.5 km) from the crash site in Oxnard on Tuesday and was later taken into custody on suspicion of felony hit-and-run, police said.

Sanchez-Ramirez's attorney Ron Bamieh told reporters on Wednesday that the crash was an accident and his client left the scene trying to look for help before eventually finding police.

"The reality is he basically freaked out trying to help people," Bamieh said. "Did he do everything like James Bond? No, he did the best he could."

The crash in Oxnard, about 45 miles (70 km) northwest of Los Angeles, flipped over three double-decker Metrolink rail cars and derailed two others. It tore apart the Ford pickup truck Sanchez-Ramirez drove onto the tracks after making a wrong turn before dawn.

Three people remained in critical condition on Wednesday with injuries from the crash, including the train operator who remained on a ventilator and in guarded condition, said Dr. Bryan Wong of Ventura County Medical Center.

The Los Angeles Times reported on Wednesday that Sanchez-Ramirez had a history of vehicle infractions in Arizona, including pleading guilty in 1998 to violations including driving with a blood alcohol content above the state's legal limit.

Bamieh confirmed his client was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol in 1998 but said there was no indication he was intoxicated at the time of Tuesday's rail crash.

(Writing by Curtis Skinner; Editing by Tom Heneghan)