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Texting on train headed toward disaster

By dcuff
Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009 at 8:29 pm in BART, rail, Safety.

Anyone who rides a train to work likely will feel a chill down their spine upon reading today’s news stories about the locomotive engineer in control of a commuter train that crashed into a freight train in a Los Angeles suburb last September, killing 25 people and injuring another 135.

The engineer regularly sent cellphone text messages to train buffs while he ran Metrolink trains, and he sometimes allowed teenage train buffs to ride in the cab, and on one occasion, take control of the train, according to new stories based on the text message transcripts.

Talk about taking risks with riders who trust a public transit carrier to get them to their destination safely.

His employer said the the practices of engineer Robert Sanchez,  who died in the Sept. 12 crash in Chatsworth, violated safety rules.

And in case you Bay Area train riders wonder,  BART bars its train drivers from sending text messages or allowing riders in the control cab while operating a train, said BART spokesman Jim Allison. “Absolute no no,” he said.

In text message transcripts released earlier today by the National Transportation Safety Board, the engineer of the doomed Metrolink train wrote of his plan to allow a teenager operate the locomotive on the night of the collision. The crash derailed the plan. 

Messaging the teen boy about the planned ride along,  Sanchez wrote: “. . . I’m REALLY looking forward to getting you in the cab and showing you how to run a locomotive.”

The boy replied, “Omg [oh my God] dude me too. Running a locomotive. Having all of that in the palms of my hands. Its a great feeling. And ill do it so good from all my practice on the simulator.”

Sanchez answered: “I’m gonna do all the radio talkin’ . . . ur gonna run the locomotive & I’m gonna tell u how to do it.”

The National Safety Transportation Board is holding a hearing into the causes of the accident. 





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