OXNARD, California (AP) – A commuter train bound for Los Angeles derailed before dawn Tuesday in a fiery collision with an abandoned commercial pickup after the truck’s driver took a wrong turn and got stuck on the tracks.
There was a loud boom and the screech of brakes before three of the train’s five cars toppled over, sending 30 people to hospitals. Four were in critical condition, including the engineer.
“It seemed like an eternity while we were flying around the train. Everything was flying,” said passenger Joel Bingham. “A brush of death definitely came over me.”
The train pushed the truck some 300 feet (90 metres) down the tracks, said Robert Sumwalt of the National Transportation Safety Board.
Lives were likely saved by passenger cars designed to absorb a crash. They were purchased after a deadly collision a decade ago, Metrolink officials said. The four passenger cars remained largely intact, as did the locomotive.
Police found the disoriented driver of the demolished Ford F-450 pickup 1.6 miles (2.6 kilometres) from the crossing 45 minutes after the crash, said Jason Benites, an assistant chief of the Oxnard Police Department.
That driver, Jose Alejandro Sanchez-Ramirez, 54, of Yuma, Arizona, was briefly hospitalized then arrested Tuesday afternoon on suspicion of felony hit-and-run, Benites said.