(Sun Valley, California – September 7, 2016)
A Southern California Regional Rail Authority Metrolink Los Angeles-bound train consisting of a locomotive and six passenger rail cars and with 187 passengers on board collided with an 18-wheeler Wednesday morning about 10:40 A.M., PDT at a grade crossing. The collision resulted in 21 passengers being injured. Although equipped with both flashing lights and crossing gates, the crossing has now experienced 17 accidents since the Federal Railroad Administration began keeping a tally in the early 1970’s, and had suffered one fatality as well as two injuries to car travelers and one injury to a railroad employee.
Witnesses may be able to provide visual evidence that explains a reported malfunction of the Sunland Blvd. crossing gates which came down on top of the truck which was stuck in traffic. The train had just departed the Sun Valley station on a single tracked, former Southern Pacific rail line which runs down a right-of-way that is paralleled on each side by the multiple, directional lanes of San Fernando Road. Thus the roadways severely limit vehicular storage space for any vehicles, especially trucks and semis, on either side of the railroad tracks. On an average day, 38 Metrolink trains and SP-successor Union Pacific freight trains cross there at a top allowable speed of 79 mph.
Witnesses told Fox News KTLA that the truck was in the middle of the tracks when the railroad crossing arms went down, the red lights started flashing and the bells began ringing. Meanwhile, another witness, identified only as “Steven”, told Los Angeles Daily News Writer Brenda Gazzar that “the traffic light had been green when he was waiting to turn and the arm (crossing gate) came down – something LAPD could not immediately confirm. He added that when he arrived at the intersection, the arm was initially down, then came up and then went down once more about 5 or 10 seconds later, something authorities also could not confirm.”
Regardless, LA Assistant Fire Chief Gregory Reynar told the reporter that the collision could have had “devastating” consequences had the circumstances been a little different. “Today, we did avert a disaster,” Reynar told Gazzar, adding that the wreck was still “a very significant traffic accident that will be investigated obviously by our law enforcement partners for quite a while with Metrolink.”