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Metrolink Engineer was texting with railfans


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September 12, 2008


CHATSWORTH -- According to preliminary reports, the Metrolink engineer may have been text messaging from the cab of the train moments before the devastating crash.


The engineer is said to have been exchanging messages with 15-year-old train enthusiast Nick Williams in the hour and minutes leading up to the accident. The messages were apparently mundane in character -- mostly about where the engineer was and where he was going.


The engineer supposedly sent a third and final text message to Williams with a time stamp of 4:22 p.m. The accident happened just one minute later, at 4:23 p.m.


It remains unclear whether the message was sent right at 4:22 p.m. as the time stamp indicates, or if it was sent some time before then.


Though the coroner has not identified the engineer, Williams says his name is Rob Sanchez and he is in his 40s.


Sanchez regularly messaged with a group young train fans, said Williams. The group has put a video tribute to Sanchez, who died in the crash upon impact, on Youtube.


A Metrolink spokeswoman expressed disbelief that the engineer might have been distracted by a cellphone.


"That would be to me unbelievable," Metrolink spokeswoman Denise Tyrrell said. "I cannot imagine a scenario where a Metrolink engineer would be texting someone while driving a train."


Earlier Saturday, a Metrolink conceded that "human error" was responsible for the crash. It said the commuter train engineer failed to stop at a red signal before the train carrying 222 people collided head on with a freight train in the San Fernando Valley Friday afternoon, killing at least 25 people and injuring dozens more.


The investigation into why the engineer failed to stop continues. The National Transportation Safety Board has taken over the investigation.


Though Metrolink has claimed responsibility for the crash, the NTSB says it is still too early to tell.


The NTSB still needs to examine data and video boxes from both trains. The agency also plans to interview witnesses and survivors from both trains.


More information will be available in the coming days, but final reports may take up to a year to complete, said an NTSB spokesperson.


Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said the search for bodies in the aftermath of a deadly train crash ended Saturday afternoon and no more bodies or survivors have been found.


In addition to the 25 confirmed dead, more than 80 people remain hospitalized. About 47 of those are in critical condition.


Governor Schwarzenegger held a brief news conference with Mayor Villaraigosa and reassured commuters that train travel was a statistically safer way to travel when compared to autos.


• At least 25 dead, 135 injured

• Search for bodies ended Saturday afternoon

• Engineer may have been text messaging moments before crash




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I've heard of conductors texting and calling railfans, especially out west where the distances are far apart & people want to get in position etc, but never the actual driver of the train. I bet he didn't see the red signal & ran right through it. I can see FRA banning non emergency use of cell phones & other communications by train crews after this.


Just goes to show you that even on rails doing other stuff while driving = not good.



As far as the fact that he was talking to railfans..... think i'm gonna lay low w/ the camera on (NJT) this week. :(:(:(:(:(


- A

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how do they know that the kid isn't liying?. i haven't heard that the engineer had a cell phone on him, and since he hasn't been identified there really is no proof. but i can't see how the engineer isn't identified, when they were putting names of other victims in a newspaper out there. or so i read in an interview someone did for the AP

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according to the AP, there was no cell phone found near the engineer. and the NTSB are tring to get his cell phone records, but what i heard on the news yesterday was that they totally didn't believe the 15 year old.

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Even if it was one minute, there would have been time to see the red & stop at 40 mph


- A



yeah. but if that freight train didn't always go though at that time every day then he may have not looked because he prob would of thought that the tracks were clear.


but if that freight train did always run at that time, then yeah why he did look would have to be asked.




last i heard they weren't sure if the message was sent exactly at the time the 15 year old said or if it was sent before and he didn't recive it until right before the crash. but again that all depends on what his cell phone records say.

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