Train crash toll reaches 25
The death toll from California’s tragic train collision stood at 25 early Sunday after friends and colleagues of a school teacher, who was on board an ill-fated commuter train, confirmed his death in the hospital.
Paul Long, an English teacher at Oaks Christian School who had been riding the Metrolink train with his wife and son, was taken off life support at County-USC Medical Center Saturday, his friends told The Los Angeles Times.
“It is going to be a great loss for the school,” school headmaster Jeff Woodcock was quoted by the paper as saying.
Meanwhile, transportation officials said an engineer’s mistake caused Friday’s head-on collision between a passenger train and a freight train near Los Angeles.
The crash happened when a Metrolink passenger train with 222 people aboard apparently failed to stop at a signal near Chatsworth, 50 kilometres northwest of Los Angeles, and smashed into a freight train.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger described the wreck as “one of the worst train accidents in modern history in California,” and officials said more people were still trapped beneath the twisted metal of a double-decker train car.
“We are deeply sorry and we are totally at a loss,” said a Metrolink spokeswoman, Denise Tyrell. “At this moment we must acknowledge that it was a Metrolink engineer that made the error that caused yesterday’s accident.”
A Los Angeles sheriff ’s spokesman told CNN that the rescue operation officially ended late Saturday, with the focus now on the recovery effort.
“They worked thoroughly and meticulously to check every single person and every single corner they could possibly find. It was long and it was focused. Now, it has ended and (the scene is) officially being turned over to the National Transportation Safety Board,” Steve Whitmore said.
The federal officials take control of the investigation once rescue efforts conclude.
At least 135 people were injured in the crash between the Ventura County Line passenger train 111 and a Union Pacific freight train Friday.
Several dozen survivors remained in critical condition, and more deaths were anticipated.
Each train was believed to be traveling at the time of the head-on collision at about 60 k/h. The impact saw the first passenger car collapse into its locomotive. At least seven cars from the freight train derailed, although most remained standing in accordion fashion across the tracks.