Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Dim Bulb May Have Caused California Crash

A dim bulb on a block signal in Chatsworth, CA, that a Metrolink engineer ran past, resulting in a deadly head-on collision with a freight train, might have caused the incident, the Los Angeles Times reports.
""It was the unanimous consensus of the investigative team that the red was not as illuminated or clear or clearly lit," said one knowledgeable source who requested anonymity because of restrictions on comments about the inquiry."
Investigators will try to determine why the signal was not as bright as it should have been.

This development could shed new light on why engineer Robert M. Sanchez drove his train past the signal and into an ongoing Union Pacific freight train, causing 25 deaths including his own. Shortly after the collision, reports surfaced that Sanchez had been text messaging railfans in the vicinity just before the incident. It was a rush to judgment exacerbated by a Metrolink public relations executive's premature disclosure, which led to her subsequent resignation.

The investigation is also examining whether Sanchez followed the standard operating practice of call out signal colors by radio. The train's conductor is required to confirm signals that are yellow (reduce speed) or red (stop).

In a related development, a coroner's report on Sanchez said he was not taking drugs or medication right before the crash.

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