OXNARD, California (AP) – A driver who abandoned his pickup truck on railroad tracks before a fiery crash with a commuter train made repeated attempts to get the vehicle off the rails and then ran for his life as the train approached, his lawyer said Wednesday.
Jose Alejandro Sanchez-Ramirez accidentally drove onto the tracks and made the situation worse by continuing forward in an attempt to get enough speed to get his wide pickup over the rails, attorney Ron Bamieh said.
When that effort failed, he tried to push the truck and then fled before impact.
“He hits his high beams trying to do something. He’s screaming. He realises, ‘I can’t do anything,’ and then he tries to run so he doesn’t get killed,” Bamieh said.
“He saw the impact, yes, it was a huge explosion.”
The lawyer’s account offered a different perspective on what investigators have said about the crash that injured 30 people, four critically, when the Los Angeles-bound Metrolink train derailed before dawn Tuesday.
Police said Ramirez was trying to go right at an intersection just beyond the crossing, but made the turn too soon, drove onto the tracks before the crossing arms came down and got stuck.
Other drivers have done the same thing, but they were able to get their vehicles off the tracks. In this case, however, the trailer Ramirez was towing may have made that more difficult, Assistant Oxnard Police Chief Jason Benites said.