The first claim in the Chatsworth Metrolink train crash came Monday from the family of Aida Magdaleno, a 19-year-old California State University, Northridge student, who was one of 25 people killed. According to recent news reports, the claim filed by Magdaleno’s parents and siblings alleged that Metrolink failed to use safety mechanisms available and protect commuters. The claim also states Metrolink could have easily prevented this train crash had they installed a collision avoidance system, a rail safety technology that has been available for the last 30 years.
Metrolink officials have attributed the crash to the train’s engineer not stopping for a red light. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigators are looking into whether the engineer may have been text messaging some train enthusiasts at the time of the crash and missed the red light. But NTSB officials have also said, in no uncertain terms, that Metrolink should have used modern warning and control devices.
According to this CBS report, NTSB officials said they have long been urging Metrolink to install Positive Train Control (PTC) systems that use Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) systems to monitor train locations and speeds. With this system, if engineers ignore signals, the electronic devices automatically put on the brakes. These technologies, federal officials say, would prevent head-on collisions such as Friday’s catastrophic wreck.
Metrolink officials have tried to defend their actions by saying that these PTC systems “cost too much” and that they’re not “reliable.” But NTSB officials say that these systems should be installed at least on those routes where commuter trains and freight trains cross each other. The technology can absolutely be relied on to detect speed-limit violations, misaligned switches, unauthorized train movements and missed signals.
I find it appalling that Metrolink would refrain from installing this technology that has been available for three decades – technology that federal officials say will certainly save lives, especially in scenarios where two loaded trains are on a collision course.
This is only the first family to hit Metrolink with legal action. The families of other train accident victims will and should be entitled to compensation depending on the extent of their injuries and/or loss.
After everything we’ve learned in the last two days from Metrolink officials and investigators, I find it hard to imagine that Metrolink will not be held liable.
Once again, I offer my deepest condolences to all the families and friends of those who died in this unnecessary train wreck. To the survivors, I wish them the very best for a fast physical and emotional recovery. Here is a preliminary list from the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office, of the victims’ names. Let us keep these victims and their families in our prayers:
• Christopher Aiken, 38, of Thousand Oaks
• Dennis Arnold, 75, of Camarillo
• Dean Lafoy Brower, 51, of Ventura
• Alan Lloyd Buckley, 59, of Simi Valley, a mechanic for the city of Burbank
• Yi Chao, 71, of Simi Valley
• Spree Desha, 35, of Simi Valley, Los Angeles Police Department officer
• Walter Arney Fuller, 58, of Simi Valley
• Ronald Grace, 55, of Simi Valley
• Michael Hammersly, 45, of Simi Valley
• Jacob Hefter, 18, of Palmdale, a student at California State University, Long Beach
• Kari Hsieh, no age given
• Ernest Stephen Kish II, 47, of Thousand Oaks
• Gregory Lintner, 48, of Simi Valley
• Paul Long, 54, of Moorpark, a teacher
• Manuel Macias, 31, of Santa Paula, a yoga instructor
• Aida Magdaleno, 19, of Camarillo
• Charles Peck, 58, of Salt Lake City
• Howard Barry Pompel, 69, of Moorpark
• Donna Remata, 49, of Simi Valley, a Metropolitan Transit Authority
• Doyle Jay Souser, 56, of Camarillo, general manager at a construction materials company
• Roger Spacey, 60, of Simi Valley
• Maria Elena Villalobos, 18, of Moorpark, a student at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising
• Atul Vyas, 20, of Simi Valley, a student at Claremont McKenna College