September 15, 2008

Train Crash Probe Focuses on Signals

Investigators into the fatal commuter train crash in Los Angeles said they were focusing on whether a signal was broken or missed.

National Transportation Safety Board member Kitty Higgins said a computer reading indicated the last signal before Friday's collision between the Metrolink train and a Union Pacific freight train displayed a red light, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday. However, she said investigators wanted to make sure it wasn't a false reading.

Higgins was critical of Metrolink officials who Saturday faulted an engineer for failing to heed the red signal, causing the crash. At least 25 people died and 135 were injured.

"I don't know on what basis Metrolink made that statement. We really work very hard not to jump to conclusions," Higgins said during a Sunday news conference.

Before the crash site, the train passed four signals that would have flashed yellow or red to warn the engineer if they worked properly, the Times said.

The engineer and the conductor, stationed at either end of the train, usually call each other to repeat signals seen by the engineer, Higgins said. She said officials listened to recordings, finding so far no indication that the engineer and conductor exchanged information on the last two signals.

Metrolink officials said they expected regular service on the Los Angeles-Ventura County line to resume in time for Monday's evening rush hour.