According to evidence presented today by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the crew onboard the Metrolink passenger train and a Union Pacific freight train were both sending text messages before a collision that killed 25 people.
The September 12th collision was the deadliest train accident since 1993.
138 were injured when the Metrolink commuter train collided head-on with the Union Pacific freight train around 4:22 p.m. The commuter train had picked up passengers from the suburban Los Angeles area of Chatsworth.
The NTSB also reports that toxicology tests show the Union Pacific conductor tested positive for marijuana.
The crash led to a ban on mobile phone use by engineers.
In conducting its investigation using subpoenas and search warrants, the NTSB looked at the engineer’s text-message log.
Altogether Robert Sanchez sent 21 texts and received 22. He also made four phone calls while on duty. Sanchez was killed in the collision.
Sanchez failed to stop at a signal instead ending a message on his mobile phone about 22 seconds before the collision.
Sanchez also reportedly allowed people to enter the unauthorized area of the locomotive and had plans to repeat the gathering on the evening that he died.
Before the NTSB investigation concluded, students reported that Sanchez invited them to ride with him three days before the crash. One of the young riders was allowed to take controls of the train.
The student in a text wrote, according to Bloomberg, “Running a train, I just cant believe it. Im gonna do it. Omg.”
IB Partner Paul Kiesel of Kiesel, Boucher & Larson, LLP tells IB News, "The revelations today before the NTSB are a stunning admission of a systemic failure to put passenger safety first."
Kiesel is now representing a dozen individuals injured or killed on the trains. KBLA will be one of about six firms litigating the individual cases on behalf of 34 other firms around California representing the dead and injured.
Sanchez worked for Connex, which provides conductors to Southern California Regional Rail Authority’s Metrolink. The NTSB faults Connex for failing to oversee its employees. According to Kiesel, the contract between Connex and Metrolink allows Metrolink to have no liability if the engineer is found to be responsible.
"They are morally culpable but not fiscally," he says.
Labor unions have opposed putting cameras in locomotive cabs to monitor employees. The NTSB had also suggested that taped voice recorders be installed in trains.
Last September, Kiesel, Boucher, Larson LLP filed the first lawsuit against Metrolink on behalf of the parents of Aida Magdaleno. The California State University, Northridge 19-year-old sophomore was going to school to become a social worker.
Kiesel told IB News in September, “This is strong evidence of a compelling lapse of human judgment and attention.” #