A Metro Gold Line train from Pasadena derailed at a Highland Park crossing last week after it rammed into a pickup truck injuring six people and pushing many passengers out of their seats. According to a news report in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, witnesses told officials that the driver of the pickup may have been chatting on the cell phone or for some reason did not pay attention to the stop signal. There were 60 passengers on the train at the time of the incident, the newspaper reported.
Investigators are looking into the causes of the train accident and don’t know at this point if the driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs or if he was distracted by a cell phone. Some passengers reported neck and back pain from the impact of the train crash. The driver of the pickup truck did not suffer any major injuries, officials said. Once the collision occurred there was widespread panic on the train as it rocked and derailed, passengers told the newspaper.
The Los Angeles Times talked to MTA officials who told reporters that the pickup truck driver in fact tried to “beat the train,” which was traveling through a crossing that had lights and bells but no gates. According to a spokesperson who talked to the Times, the driver probably did not pay attention to the signals. But in the same breath, that spokeswoman also said she is not aware if the signals at the crossing were working when that incident happened. State law apparently does not require gates on crossings where trains are traveling at 35 miles an hour, officials said. MTA officials told the Times that trains passing through that area usually travel 15 mph to 20 mph.
I would be very interested to find out how exactly this collision occurred. Was it the pickup truck driver’s negligence? Was he really chatting on a cell phone, under the influence or simply being reckless and trying to beat the train? Or were the signals not working at that gateless crossing? In either case, the people who were injured in this collision must seek the advice of a personal injury attorney to make sure their rights are protected. More facts are sure to surface once the investigation progresses.
The MTA should also look into whether they should put in more gates at dangerous or high-traffic light-rail crossings not because they are mandated by law, but because they hold the key to public safety.