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September 13, 2008
Vol. 9 No. 38 - EXTRA

Copyright © 2008
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved

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NEWS OF THE WEEK... Extra Edition...


UP, Metrolink Commuter Rail Trains In Crash


Many Deaths, Injuries, Some Still Missing as Freight
and Commuter Train Collide Near Los Angeles


By DF Staff and from Internet Sources


CHATSWORTH, CA --- A Union Pacific freight train and a Metrolink commuter rail train packed with people, each going 40 miles per hour, collided head-on Friday afternoon just outside the Chatsworth rail station near Stoney Creek Park.

The wreck is likely to become the worst passenger railroad accident in America at least since the 1999 Amtrak crash, caused by a steel-laden truck that had moved across the tracks directly in the path of the oncoming train at Bourbonnais, IL, killing 11 innocent people on the City of New Orleans, and an earlier 2005 Metrolink tragedy when a deranged man parked his car on the tracks in what he said was a suicide attempt, and derailed a commuter rail into the path of an oncoming freight train.

Photo: LA Times Blogs

Rescue teams work to free trapped people in the wreckage of the collision that occured at a bend in the railroad.

The September 12 accident was made far worse because the commuter rail train’s engine was forced backward into the lead passenger car, nearly destroying it and the locomotive as well. That is unusual for American train wrecks, where high buffing standards (600,000 psi) are required for passenger rail cars. Normally, in a crash, most of the cars that derail will form a zig zag pattern on the ground.

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board and other agencies swarmed the scene Saturday as the Board of the Metrolink met to assess what had happened.

The section of track involved is a single track, with sidings spaced periodically to allow trains to meet and pass each other.

Image: Google Maps (

Location of the collision

Photo: Hannoverische Allgemeine Zeitung (Germany) 

As we post this story with an early edition of Destination:Freedom, rescue workers put the death toll at 18, but had yet to get into one of the railroad cars that was effectively covered by another by the impact, which took place on a curved, single-track section of former Southern Pacific rail line, now owned by Union Pacific. Rescuers were reportedly stripping the metal off the cars layer by layer to get to the wounded and the dead, and were proceeding with great care so as not make the situation even worse.

The driver of the Metrolink train, or engineer as he is commonly called, was killed. The fate of the freight engine driver and his conductor was not yet known.

A spokesman for Metrolink said the train was carrying 350 people, and that 135 had been injured, many critically.

The Los Angeles Times described the scene, near Stoney Point Park in Chatsworth on a curve where the track turns to pass under a highway via a short tunnel, as carnage, as rescuers attempted to sort the living from the dead and extract them through access windows, as well as badly gaping holes in the rail cars.

“Metrolink conductor Bob Hildebrand, injured in the crash, told retired Amtrak engineer Tom Dinger the train was going 40 miles an hour when the accident occurred,” the LA Times reported. The train normally has three passenger cars, it added.

“Albert Cox, 53, a passenger sitting in the last car, said he saw that the Metrolink and Union Pacific trains were sharing the same track as they rounded a curve,” the LA Times also reported.

Metrolink train No. 111 left Union Station in downtown Los Angeles at 3:35 p.m. local time September 12 heading to Moorpark, about 48 miles to the northwest, KNBC said. The collision took place about one hour later near the intersection of the Ronald Reagan (118) Freeway and Topanga Canyon Boulevard, about 30 miles from Union Station.

Amtrak’s Coast Starlight from Seattle,, which uses the same line to enter Los Angeles, will originate and terminate in Santa Barbara until further notice, the railroad said, with bus service provided to downtown LA. For updates see

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