[symple_googlemap title=”Metrolink Train Derails” location=”Rice Avenue and Fifth Street, Oxnard, CA” height=”300″ zoom=”13″]

Updated at 5:28 p.m. on Feb. 24, 2015

A Los Angeles-bound Metrolink train struck a truck on the tracks in Oxnard Tuesday and derailed, interrupting rail service to and from Ventura County and sending 28 people to hospitals, including four in critical condition.

The crash occurred shortly before 6 a.m. just east of the Oxnard Station, near Rice Avenue and Fifth Street. Ventura County Line train 102 was en route to Union Station in downtown Los Angeles when the crash occurred, Metrolink spokesman Jeff Lustgarten said.

The four passenger cars and the locomotive — which was at the rear, pushing the train — derailed. The three forward passenger cars tipped over on their side, said Metrolink spokesman Scott Johnson.

Oxnard police said the driver of the produce truck — a 54-year-old man identified as Jose Alejandro Sanchez Ramirez of Yuma, Arizona — was found, disoriented, about a mile and a half from the scene.

“Our preliminary assessment of this collision shows that the produce truck was driving southbound on Rice Avenue and as it got to Fifth Street, it made a right turn,” Oxnard police Assistant Chief Jason Benites said. “However, rather than make the right turn onto westbound Fifth Street, it actually turned onto the railroad tracks. It was actually stuck there.”

Benites said it was unclear if the driver, who had a valid commercial drivers license, made the wrong turn accidentally or intentionally.

The man was taken to a hospital to be examined but was later arrested on suspicion of felony hit-and-run, Benites said. Ramirez was driving a 2005 F- 450 truck towing a trailer with some type of equipment inside, possibly welding equipment, he said.

The single track is owned and operated by Union Pacific Railroad, and shared by other rail operators, Johnson said. It could take all day to clear the scene, officials said.

Fifty people were assessed at the scene for possible injuries, and 28 of them were transported for hospital treatment, four of them in critical condition, according to the fire department. Fire officials said 22 other people were initially treated and released at the scene, but two of them later went to hospitals on their own for treatment.

No fatalities were reported. One of the critical patients was the Metrolink conductor.

As of midday, seven of the patients had been admitted to hospitals, 13 were still being treated and eight had been treated and released, fire officials said.

According to the fire department and Metrolink, trains can reach 79 mph along that stretch of track, but the engineer saw the truck and began slowing the train before impact.

“They did initiate emergency protocols early, and so they were doing significantly slower than 79 miles per hour at the time of impact,” Oxnard Fire Department spokesman Joe Garces said.

The train consisted of four passenger cars and a locomotive at the rear, Johnson said. The engineer was in the first passenger car — known as the “cab car” — and was operating the train from there. The engineer and the conductor were among the injured, Johnson said.

The cab car, along with the third and fourth passenger cars, were newer cars, equipped with “collision energy management technology,” which is designed to “send the impact outward instead of inward and prevent crumpling,” Johnson said. The second passenger car was an older car, retrofitted to accommodate bicycles.

The National Transportation Safety Board dispatched a “go-team” to the scene from Washington, D.C., to investigate the crash.

Johnson said the Metrolink/Amtrak “shared train” 761 from Union Station to Oxnard has been canceled for today. Rail passengers were urged to use alternate transportation. Amtrak canceled all of its Pacific Surfliner trains north of Los Angeles for the rest of the day.

Buses were sent to the scene to accommodate stranded rail passengers. Metrolink passengers can call (800) 371-LINK for more information, or visit the Metrolink Facebook or Twitter pages.

On Jan. 26, 2005, a Metrolink train slammed into a Jeep Grand Cherokee that had been parked on the tracks near the Glendale-Los Angeles city line, killing 11 people and injuring more than 180. The man who parked the Jeep on the track, Juan Manuel Alvarez, was convicted in June 2008 of 11 counts of first-degree murder and a single count of arson. He was sentenced to 11 consecutive life prison terms.

On Sept. 12, 2008, a Metrolink train collided head-on with a Union Pacific freight train, killing 25 people. An investigation determined that the Metrolink engineer had been texting shortly before the crash.

Metrolink is in the process of installing a Positive Train Control system throughout its network. The system is a GPS-based technology designed to prevent collisions by automatically slowing or stopping trains. The federal government has mandated the implementation of the system by the end of this year.

That system, however, is not designed to stop collisions with vehicles that are driven or parked on tracks, like the crash that occurred today.

To help absorb the impact of collisions, however, Metrolink has been introducing crash-resistant cars. The cars are equipped with specialized bumpers and so-called “crush zones” that are designed to collapse in crashes and protect passenger cars.

Lustgarten said the “crash energy management technology” has been installed on about two-thirds of Metrolink’s passenger cars. He said the crumple zone on the cars had a definite impact on this morning’s collision.

“It’s safe to say it would have been much worse without it,” he said.

Lustgarten said crews were working late today to remove the damaged trains from the scene, then repairs would have to be to the tracks before regular service can resume. In the meantime, buses were being used to shuttle passengers between Oxnard and Moorpark.

He said it was possible regular service could resume in the morning.

— City News Service

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