A major development in the investigation of that disastrous crash of a Metrolink commuter train and a Union Pacific freight train in Chatsworth last month.
According to a report released today by the National Transportation Safety Board, the engineer of the Metrolink train was text messaging while on duty — and sent one message 22 seconds before the fatal collision.
Engineer Robert Sanchez reportedly received or sent around 57 text messages during his shift on the day of the crash. The two trains collided at about 4:22 p.m on September 12. Twenty-five people, including Sanchez, were killed and more than 120 others were injured.
The NTSB gathered the latest information from Sanchez’s cellphone service provider after getting a subpoena. Federal investigators say this is an ongoing investigation and the findings are preliminary. So this may appear to be the “smoking gun” in the probe, but investigators are not ready to call it that yet.
California Senator Dianne Feinstein, who has co-sponsored legislation to beef up railroad safeguards, said it should be “a no brainer” for train engineers not to use cellphones while on duty. Senator Feinstein made the comment during an interview on KNX 1070 news radio this afternoon. Metrolink has a policy against this kind of activity, but apparently it is not being followed.
The Chatsworth train collision was the worst in California history and the deadliest in the nation since 1993.