The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating a crash of a Metrolink commuter train and a truck in Southern California early Tuesday morning that injured 51 people, four people are in critical condition including the train’s engineer.
Oxnard Police said the crash involving a Metrolink commuter train and a tractor trailer was first reported at 5:44 a.m. local time Tuesday morning. Oxnard, California is located 65 miles northwest of Los Angeles. A Ventura County Fire Department spokesperson said there are no known deaths. Ventura County Fire Captain, Mike Lindbery said the train was carrying 51 passengers, 28 of those were transported to six local hospitals and 23 others were treated at the scene. The driver of the truck that collided with the train fled the scene, but was apprehended by police less than a mile from the crash site. The Associated Press reports that an investigator familiar with the crash said the driver is not from the area and made a premature right turn.
The crash occurred as Metrolink train 102 was headed eastbound into a semi-rural area near 5th Street and Rice in Oxnard, California. Ventura County Fire and rescue personnel pulled passengers through the windows of the train cars to an on-scene triage set-up. In 2014, Metrolink passenger railroad launched a state-of-the-art safety system along sections of its 512-mile network in Southern California. The 210-million dollar positive train control technology relies on global positioning satellites, digital radio communications and computers to monitor trains, is said to able to automatically override the engineer and apply the brakes to prevent an accident. The “positive train control” project came in the wake of several accidents on Metrolink trains. In 2008, a Metrolink commuter train plowed into a Union Pacific locomotive in Chatsworth, California, killing 25 people and injuring 135 people. In 2005, a Metrolink train struck a sport utility vehicle parked on the tracks in the Los Angeles suburb of Glendale, killing 11 people and injuring 180.
The history of California Metrolink trains bears similarities to that of New York’s Metro-North Railroad. Earlier in February, a deadly commuter train crash in the suburb of White Plains, New York, killed six people, including the driver of an Mercedes SUV that collided with the train, and injured 14 others in the deadliest commuter rail accident in New York’s history. In 2013, four “high profile” accidents on the Metro-North prompted a safety assessment by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) criticized the nation’s second-largest railroad for a “poor safety culture” and “ineffective training.”