First to arrive at Metrolink Derailment Disaster
5:55 a.m. A trespass driver entered the SCRRA right of way at the West Chevy Chase Drive grade crossing in Glendale, California. He drove his vehicle onto the west rail south of the signal gates; doused the vehicle’s interior with gasoline with the intention of committing suicide.
6:02 a.m. At the last moment the driver got cold feet and jumped out his vehicle leaving it to be struck by the southbound No. 100 Metrolink train.
6:10 a.m. Ron Phares & Company adjusters were the first to arrive on the scene. It was still dark with heavy rain and low cloud cover. Everything was in shades of gray except you could clearly see bright orange flames and bellowing white smoke emanating from what appeared to be the worst part of the accident where the passenger cars had started to zigzag indicating jackknifed cars coming to an abrupt halt.
Facts-in-Brief: The engineer’s first perception of the trespass vehicle impeding the main line behind the bright illumination of the signal lights was a momentary refraction of light from an orange reflector on the front of the vehicle. The contour of the vehicle became visible, and the engineer made an emergency brake application.
A passenger, who was upstairs, said he watched as the engineer stopped by an empty seat, knelt down with his knees under the seat and then pushed his head as far as it could go into the bottom of the seat. The eyewitness said the next thing he knew his body was being thrown all over the car.
The cab car at the front of Metrolink Train No. 100 derailed but continued south on the railroad tracks, and the right front corner of the cab car struck a parked Union Pacific locomotive causing that cab to “jackknife” and strike the rear car of northbound Metrolink Train No. 901.
The impact against the Union Pacific locomotive spun the lead car sideways and popped second-floor seats from their bolts. The passengers screamed as the train careened off the track and the lights went out. The sound heard was the shriek of metal against gravel. Someone looked out a hole that had been ripped into the car to see the overturned yellow locomotive beside the train. A woman’s legs dangled out of the train. She was pulled into safety by another passenger. Outside on the ground was a body of a dead Sheriff’s Deputy.
To make matters worse, the gasoline with which the trespass driver doused the interior of the vehicle ignited upon impact with the freight locomotive, causing a fire, panicking the passengers
An estimated 5,000 gallons of fuel spilled from the tanks of the freight locomotive. Fuel flowed into the adjacent parking lot. It took five days to clean up the area due to the homicide investigation conducted by the Glendale Police Department and the National Transportation Safety Board.
The conductor of Train No. 901 was tragically killed in this accident, as well as ten passengers. One hundred sixty four people were injured.
The man who was responsible for causing the deadliest train wreck in six years was charged with 11 counts of murder with special circumstances, meaning he would be eligible for the death penalty if convicted.