- The Washington Times - Monday, January 6, 2003

BURBANK, Calif., Jan. 6 (UPI) — One person was killed and an unknown number were injured Monday in the collision of a commuter train carrying some 50 passengers bound for downtown Los Angeles when it slammed into a truck and partially derailed at a crossing in Burbank.

Two double-decker cars on the Metrolink train fell on their sides and a third was pushed into the air while the truck burst into flames, and motorists along busy Interstate 5 pulled over and ran to assist the injured at the scene.

"It (the train) started rocking around," passenger Justin Pearson told Los Angeles television station KCBS. "I looked out the window and there was a big fireball. The car tipped over, and I just held on. It was really crazy. I saw my life flash before my eyes."

The five-car train had been en route from the Antelope Valley to Union Station in Los Angeles at the tail end of the morning commute when it struck the truck at a crossing near Burbank Airport. The truck was cut in two and caught fire. The driver was reportedly killed while the engineer on the train was injured.

"I was upstairs, and there were five or six people with me, and I just held on," the shaken Pearson said. "Most of the people got out with me. There was only the one lady with me lying down with a head injury."

Home video shot immediately after the crash showed images of passersby helping passengers climb out of the rail car that had been pushed some 10 feet into the air. Others employed a piece of broken metal as a battering ram to break out a window on one of the capsized cars to free passengers.

Part of southbound I-5 was closed for a time to allow emergency vehicles to park along the shoulder and to gain access to the scene.

Metrolink officials could not immediately confirm initial estimates of the number of passengers on the train or whether it was traveling at the 60 mph to 70 mph speeds it is capable of reaching. The National Transportation Safety Board was called in to investigate the crash.

Another witness told KCBS that the crossing was recently equipped with new crossing gates that had quieter bells than the older guards.

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(Reported by Hil Anderson in Los Angeles.)




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