LA commuter train hits truck in freak accident

AP News
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Posted: Dec 23, 2009 4:41 PM

A Metrolink commuter train struck a pickup truck that flew into its path after crashing into a car which had stopped for a passing ambulance early Wednesday, authorities said. Six people were treated for injuries, including two in critical condition.

The chain-reaction crash occurred around 7 a.m. in the eastern San Fernando Valley where train tracks parallel a major road.

Four people in the two vehicles were injured and two were taken to hospitals in critical condition, including a 2-year-old boy, said fire Capt. Steve Ruda. The child, his mother and a man were in one of the vehicles, while a 40-year-old man, also in critical condition, was in the truck, he said.

Eight of the 39 passengers aboard the train complained of injuries, but only two were taken to hospitals for treatment of minor injuries, authorities said.

Ruda said the accident occurred when the car carrying the three victims pulled to the side of the road for an ambulance traveling in the opposite direction. The pickup slammed into the back of the car and flipped over before coming to rest 40 to 50 feet away on the railroad tracks, where the train struck it.

The collisions left the truck on a dirt strip adjacent to the tracks, with the damaged car close by. The train came to a stop down the tracks, with little apparent damage.

"In the wake of this tragedy, it is important we allow the ongoing investigation to reach its course to assure these accidents do not happen again," Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said.

The train was on Metrolink's Antelope Valley line and had left downtown Los Angeles at 6:35 a.m. en route to Sylmar, agency spokeswoman Angie Starr said. The line was reopened after being closed for more than three hours.

Investigators remained at the scene, piecing together the accident. It was unclear if the truck driver would be cited.

Ruda said it was unfortunate for the victims in the car who were obeying the law by stopping.

"They were doing the right thing at the right time," Ruda said.

The Southern California train agency has been plagued in recent years by major crashes. Last year, 25 people were killed when a Metrolink train collided with a freight train. Investigators believe the Metrolink engineer ran a red light seconds after he was text messaging on his cell phone.

In 2005, 11 people died and about 180 were injured when a man who later claimed he was suicidal parked his sport utility vehicle on the tracks in suburban Glendale. The driver of the SUV was convicted of murder.