Feds Probe Report Metrolink Engineer Was Texting Moments Before Deadly Crash
Monday, September 15, 2008
September 13: Rescue crews continue to work on the wreckage of a Metrolink commuter train.
LOS ANGELES — Federal investigators said they will seek the cell phone records of two teenagers and a train engineer as they probe whether text messages factored into a fiery commuter train crash that killed 25 people in America's worst rail disaster in 15 years.
The engineer of the Metrolink train that crashed head-on near Chatsworth, California, was chatting with a teenager moments before the crash, the Orange County Register reported Sunday.
Nick Williams, a teenage train enthusiast, told KCBS-TV he exchanged three text messages with engineer Robert Sanchez Friday afternoon. Williams, who considered Sanchez a “mentor,” received the last text at 4:22 p.m., one minute before the train wreck, according to the OCRegister.com report. Williams' claims have not been confirmed.
Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board are talking to the two 14-year-old teens and their families, Kitty Higgins, an NTSB board member, said at a news conference Sunday.
"There's a lot of things. In any accident I've been involved in, it's never one factor. I call it the perfect storm. We work hard not to jump to conclusions," Higgins said.
She added that the engineer's cell phone was not recovered at the crash site Sunday and declined to say what the teens and their families have told investigators.
Sanchez, who was killed in the crash, said in his final text he would be meeting up with another passenger train later that day.
“I just replied back, 'good deal,' and I just said, 'That's cool,' and I never got a response back," Williams reportedly told CBS2.
Federal investigators also said late Sunday that audio recordings from the train are missing required verbal safety checks between the engineer and the conductor in the seconds before the train collision.
The recordings, obtained by the National Transportation Safety Board from the Metrolink dispatch center, show the engineer and conductor called out and confirmed light signals along the route, but the tapes are missing that call-and-response for the last two lights the train passed just before the fiery wreck, said Kitty Higgins, an NTSB board member.