Truck Stalls on Track Before Fiery Train Crash, 28 Injured

OXNARD, Calif. (AP) -
Wreckage of a Metrolink commuter train after it crashed into a truck and derailed early on Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2015, in Oxnard, California. (AP Photo/KABC)
Wreckage of a Metrolink commuter train after it crashed into a truck and derailed early on Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2015, in Oxnard, California. (AP Photo/KABC)

A commuter train bound for Los Angeles derailed before dawn Tuesday in a fiery collision with a pickup truck abandoned after its driver took a wrong turn and got stuck on the tracks.

Three of the train’s five cars toppled over, injuring 28 people, four critically.

Lives were likely saved by passenger cars designed to absorb a crash that were purchased after a deadly collision a decade ago, Metrolink officials said.

There was a loud boom followed by the sound of brakes screeching and a rumbling sound, said Joel Bingham, who was in the second passenger car. He thought everything was going to be fine until the train teetered, and slid on its side.

“It seemed like an eternity while we were flying around the train. Everything was flying,” he said. “A brush of death definitely came over me.”

The four passenger cars remained largely intact, as did the locomotive.

Police found the disoriented driver of the demolished Ford F-450 pickup truck about a mile or two from the scene, said Jason Benites, an assistant chief of the Oxnard Police Department.

The 54-year-old Yuma, Arizona, man was hauling a trailer to deliver produce and told police he tried to turn right at an intersection but turned prematurely onto the tracks and got stuck. His name was not released and he was hospitalized for observation.

The train, the first of the morning on the Ventura route, had just left its second stop of Oxnard on its way to downtown Los Angeles, about 65 miles away, when it struck the truck around 5:45 a.m. There were 48 passengers aboard and three crew members, who were all injured.

The engineer saw the abandoned vehicle and hit the brakes, but there wasn’t enough time to stop, Oxnard Fire Battalion Chief Sergio Martinez said.

After such a crash killed 11 people and injured 180 others in Glendale in 2005, Metrolink invested heavily to buy passenger cars with collapsible bumpers and other features to absorb impact.

Metrolink spokesman Jeff Lustgarten said the Oxnard crash showed the technology worked.

“Safe to say it would have been much worse without it,” he said.