A pair of memorial ceremonies will be held Wednesday to mark the 10th anniversary of the 2008 Metrolink crash in Chatsworth that killed 25 people, injured more than 100 others and led to a national push for the installation of railway safety systems.
At about 4:20 p.m. Sept. 12, 2008, westbound Metrolink train 111 collided head-on with an eastbound Union Pacific freight train just west of the Chatsworth station. The force of the collision pushed the locomotive leading the Metrolink train into the passenger car immediately behind it. A dozen rail cars from the two trains derailed, leaving a scene of devastation.
Twenty-three people were pronounced dead at the scene, and two more died days later. A total of 135 people were injured. The collision remains the deadliest crash in Metrolink history, and one of the deadliest rail disasters in U.S. history.
In the probe that ensued, investigators determined that the engineer aboard the Metrolink train, 46-year-old Robert Sanchez, had been actively texting a friend, despite a ban on the use of cell phones while operating the locomotive. Investigators determined that the distracted Sanchez missed illuminated warning signals about the approaching freight train when he pulled the Metrolink commuter train out of Chatsworth station.
Sanchez was among those killed in the resulting crash.
As a result of the crash, federal legislation was passed mandating the installation of Positive Train Control safety systems on commuter rail lines by the end of 2015. The deadline was later extended, but Metrolink moved ahead quickly and now operates the system on more than 300 miles of track.
Positive Train Control is a computerized system that tracks the location of locomotives and alerts railroad officials of potential collisions. The system can even take over the operation of a train if an engineer fails to take corrective actions.
To mark the 10-year anniversary of the crash, Metrolink will hold a memorial ceremony at Union Station in downtown Los Angeles featuring current and former elected officials and Metrolink board members.
Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is among those set to attend, along with county Supervisor Kathryn Barger and Federal Railroad Administration Regional Administrator James Jordan. The daughters of one of the crash victims, Doyle Souser, will attend the ceremony and ring the bell that was aboard Metrolink train 111 on the day of the tragedy.
At the event, Metrolink will also unveil a Rail Safety Exhibit that details the Chatsworth crash, recognizes the victims and first responders and explains the safety systems that have been installed in the years since. The exhibit will be on display until Sept. 26.
At 3:30 p.m., Los Angeles City Councilman Mitchell Englander will host a community memorial ceremony near the crash site, at Ride On Therapeutic Horsemanship, 10860 Topanga Canyon Blvd. The ceremony will include a bell-ringing at 4:22 p.m.
Englander has asked local churches and schools to also ring their bells at 4:22 p.m. as part of the remembrance.
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