Trains collide in California; two killed, hundreds hurt

Wednesday, April 24, 2002

PLACENTIA, Calif. -- A freight train plowed head-on into a Southern California commuter train during the morning rush hour Tuesday, hurling people out of their seats. Two people were killed and at least 260 people were injured, many of them left dazed and bloodied.

The Metrolink commuter train came to a halt just before the crash, witnesses said. A passenger identified as Jim Fleming told KCAL-TV that the engineer came running through the car.

"There was a silence and he was yelling, 'Everybody get down, get down!' I thought maybe there was a bomb on board. Then all of a sudden we hit," Fleming said.

Authorities were investigating how the trains ended up on the same track. It was the nation's second deadly train wreck in less than a week.

The accident happened just after 8 a.m., 35 miles southeast of Los Angeles. The southbound Metrolink train was traveling from Riverside to San Juan Capistrano with more than 300 passengers when it collided with a mile-long Burlington Northern Santa Fe freight en route from Los Angeles to Clovis, N.M., with 67 loaded containers.

Commuters were thrown from their seats by the thundering impact, and passengers, many of them bleeding, scrambled to help others from the double-deck Metrolink cars. "I was thrown forward onto my knees with my face into the seat, and I was just confused. I just saw darkness and I didn't know what happened," said Kim Bailey.

Passenger Bill Marin said riders, apparently thinking the train had reached its next station, stood when it came to a halt. They were the most seriously injured.

Robert Kube, 59, of Moreno Valley died at the scene. A 48-year-old passenger, died at a hospital. His name was not released. Officials said 162 people were taken to hospitals; 19 were reported to have serious injuries.

Witnesses said the collision knocked the Metrolink train back at least 100 feet and pushed the first two cars off the track. Mark Brown, running from his automobile, saw passengers clambering out the windows of the buckled cars.

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