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After crash, will Metrolink adopt Subaru’s ‘They lived’ tagline?

No one was killed but dozens were injured in the Feb. 24 accident involving a heavy-duty pickup truck and a Metrolink commuter train. The accident happened between the Southern California cities of Oxnard and Camarillo, less than an hour away from the site of the 2008 train crash in Chatsworth that left 25 dead.

The reference to the 2008 crash is included here for an important reason: It was that crash that moved Metrolink to upgrade its cars with collision energy management technology. The objective of CEM technology is to minimize the force of the impact and to reduce the damage to the cars that derail. From the looks of this accident, it works.

Metrolink representatives explained the accident and the effect of the technology in a series of statements. The locomotive was at the rear, pushing four cars and traveling between 40 mph and 55 mph. It was early, and the sun wasn’t up. The engineer saw the truck, pulled the brake and sounded the horn.

The front car — a “cab car” that is a passenger car with a compartment for the engineer — hit the truck and the trailer it was pulling, derailed and fell onto its side. The next two cars derailed and toppled onto their sides as well, leaving one car and the locomotive derailed but upright.

The truck exploded on impact, and passengers in the second car reported seeing it explode as their car skidded — for a very long time, they said — to a stop. Some passengers were able to escape the wreckage through safety windows, others were helped out by witnesses from nearby farms and passengers in better condition.

All told, 28 of the 50 people involved were injured. Four, including the engineer, were listed in critical condition not long after the crash. The truck driver had left his vehicle before the impact; police found him more than a mile away from the crash site.

Without CEM technology, things would have turned out much differently. We’ll explain more in our next post.

Sources:

Los Angeles Times, “ riders, an explosion, then ‘everything started flying’,” Amanda Covarrubias, Veronica Rocha and Louis Sahagun, Feb. 24, 2015 (first reported at 6:41 a.m. and updated throughout the day until 6:48 p.m.)

CNN, “Train technology prevented tragedy in Southern California, officials say,” Kyung Lah, Steve Almasy and Ashley Fantz, Feb. 25, 2015

This entry has been updated since its first publication to correct errors regarding the number of train cars, how many cars had derailed and the train’s speed at the time of impact.

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