The truck driver involved in the crash in Oxnard, California was arrested on Tuesday. Although officials are relieved that no one was killed in the wreck, three train cars derailed and 28 people were injured. Four of the patients are in critical condition, including the train’s conductor.
The National Transportation Safety Board is now tasked with figuring out why the pick-up truck turned onto the railroad tracks. Some reports claim the truck got stuck on the tracks, others say the vehicle stalled and the driver abandoned his vehicle because of it. The train conductor saw the truck on the tracks, slammed on the brakes, but could not avoid the vehicle blocking his path.
The train crash truck driver, named Jose Alejandro Sanchez-Ramirez was found 45 minutes after the accident, close to two miles from the crash site. Wandering around in a daze, the truck driver was tested for drugs and alcohol, but those results were not released to the public. He was arrested on Tuesday for suspicion of a hit-and-run felony. The truck, a Ford F-450, was pushed 300 feet down the tracks. Although it was severely damaged, the site inspectors believe they will be able to gather critical information from the truck to figure out what happened.
They could tell that his emergency brakes were on and his lights were switched to the high-beam setting. Sanchez-Ramirez says that he entered the crossing before the arm went down, 29 seconds before the train came into the intersection. He could not restart hiss truck so he and his wife Lucille abandoned the vehicle. She claims that the accident was not his fault.
One crash scene investigator believes that the truck involved in the Oxnard train crash was not stuck on the railroad tracks. Robert Sumwalt of the NTSB says, “It was not stuck. It was not bottomed out on the track or something like that.”
Initial reports were that the driver accidentally turned on to the track and panicked, abandoning his vehicle, causing the accident. The train passengers have technology and quick-thinking to thank for lack of fatalities in the accident. Sanchez-Ramirez’s lawyer says that it was all an accident and that the police should not have been so quick to arrest their client.
The Metrolink train cars are especially designed to absorb the shock of a crash. The NTSB plans to examine the effectiveness of the cars, but initial results show that the train cars performed well. Previous accidents with MetroLink trains yielded different results. Ten years ago, Juan Manuel Alvarez parked his truck on the train tracks, hoping that a train crash would gain the attention of his estranged wife. That accident caused 11 deaths.
Three years subsequent, another wreck with a MetroLink train killed 25 people when two trains collided on the rails because the conductor was texting. These two accidents were the impetus for MetroLink to engineer a collision avoidance system that can override human error. That, coupled with the crash-absorbent railroad cars, did much to avoid deaths in this accident.
Train crash truck driver Sanchez-Ramirez and his wife did the right thing abandoning their vehicle on the tracks. After the fatal crash of a MetroNorth train in New York, Senator Charles Schumer called for several federal initiatives to help prevent such tragedies. He wants lights and signals at train crossings. He wants engineering and safety checks at all train crossings. He also wants public awareness campaigns so that people will know what to do in an emergency.
The experts suggest, if found stuck on the tracks, drivers should either floor it, blasting through the gate crossing. Another suggestion is to abandon the vehicle on the tracks. Since the truck involved in the Oxnard crash was not stuck on the railroad tracks, he was smart to abandon his vehicle.
By Danielle Branch