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US train crashes into stalled truck

A commuter train bound for Los Angeles has derailed in a fiery collision with a pickup truck took a wrong turn and got stuck on the tracks.

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Three of the train’s five cars toppled over, injuring 28 people, four critically.

The driver of the demolished Ford F-450 pickup truck abandoned his vehicle, but was found by police about a mile or two from the scene.

The 54-year-old man was hauling a trailer to deliver produce and told police he tried to turn right at an intersection, but turned prematurely on to the tracks and got stuck.

Lives were likely saved by passenger cars designed to absorb a crash that were purchased after a deadly collision a decade ago, Metrolink officials said.

There was a loud boom followed by the sound of brakes screeching and a rumbling sound, said Joel Bingham, who was in the second passenger car. He thought everything was going to be fine until the train teetered, and slid on its side.

“It seemed like an eternity while we were flying around the train. Everything was flying,” he said. “A brush of death definitely came over me.”

The four passenger cars remained largely intact as did the locomotive.

The train, the first of the morning on the Ventura route, had just left its second stop of Oxnard on its way to downtown Los Angeles, about 104.58km away, when it struck the truck around 5.45am on Tuesday.

There were 48 passengers aboard and three crew members, who were all injured.

The engineer saw the abandoned vehicle and hit the brakes, but there wasn’t enough time to stop, Oxnard fire battalion chief Sergio Martinez said.

Bingham said the lights went out when the train fell over. He was able to open a window above an indentation in the ground and lead people to safety.

“I was just shaking,” he said. “I opened the window and told everybody, come to my voice.”

Some of the passengers were taken to several nearby hospitals and treated for a variety of ailments.

“Patients have complained of dizziness, of headaches, of lower back pain, of pains related to being bumped, thrown, hit and so forth,” said Dr Bryan Wong, chief medical officer at Ventura County Medical Center.

The train was pushed by a locomotive in the rear, allowing trains to change direction without having to turn around or swap engines. It’s a configuration that has been criticised for putting passengers in a vulnerable position in a crash.

After such a crash killed 11 people and injured 180 others in Glendale in 2005, Metrolink invested heavily to buy passenger cars with collapsible bumpers and other features to absorb impact.

Metrolink spokesman Jeff Lustgarten said the Oxnard crash showed the technology worked.

“Safe to say it would have been much worse without it,” he said.

 

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