Shame on Metrolink

Okay, I'm time out from piling on Palin to point out the phoniness of the Metrolink announcement, moments after the crash of its train headlong into a freight train that the cause was "due to an engineer who ignored the red signal."

Now, what about this statement seems unusual? Do companies usually claim responsibility before the facts are in? Why would they do that? Out of compassion?

Hmm. A casual search shows that a company called Viola is responsible for putting engineers on the trains. Interesting. The govt outsources the people who run the trains. And Viola is owned by a worldwide conglomerate.. so.. what is Metrolink's responsibility?

They maintain the track. Oh, I get it - you decide to put trains on a single track (where else in the world do trains run on one track? Are we saving track space? Apparently only in California). Then you blame the dead engineer, because obviously he can't say that the equipment was faulty.. he can't say anything. So why not blame the dead guy because then Metrolink won't be RESPONSIBLE?

Or am I just being too cynical?

Now there's an outcry that there was a "rush to judgment." How about a heinous act by an evil corporate entity? Wow. Cravenness, callousness abounds.

That's my two cents and I'm spending them here. Here's the NY TIMES.. repeating what Metrolink told them was the case.. and it ain't the case yet, now is it?

LOS ANGELES — An engineer who ran a red signal here and crashed head-on into a freight train likely caused the nation’s deadliest commuter train wreck in nearly four decades, a spokeswoman for the rail line said Saturday.

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Monica Almeida/The New York Times

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger toured the scene in the San Fernando Valley on Saturday as the investigation continued. More Photos »

The death toll rose to at least 25 from the collision on Friday of the northbound Metrolink train carrying about 225 passengers and the freight train in Chatsworth, a mostly residential district in the northwest San Fernando Valley, officials said. The number of dead may rise, they said, because of the 135 people injured, 40 were in critical condition.

The federal investigation into the crash had just begun, but a rail line spokeswoman, Denise Tyrrell said, “Our preliminary investigation shows it was a Metrolink engineer that failed to stop at a red signal and was the probable cause of the accident.” She acknowledged that it was unusual for the agency to announce findings before a federal team investigates.

The crash was the deadliest commuter train accident in the nation since 1972, when 45 people died in Chicago, and the deadliest train crash of any kind since the 1993 Amtrak crash in Mobile, Ala., in which 47 people died.

At the crash site, firefighters and other rescue workers toiled nonstop Saturday, sifting through and searching for bodies under tons of twisted metal, shattered glass, charred seats and engine parts.

The engineer was the only one of five train workers — three on the freight train and two on the commuter railroad — to die in the crash, Ms. Tyrrell said. She said the engineer, whom she did not identify, worked for an Amtrak subcontractor that had been used by Metrolink since 1998.

Ms. Tyrrell said her agency’s preliminary findings determined that the signal on the track was working properly, and that both trains appeared to be traveling about 40 miles per hour. The conductor of the train, who gives the commands to the engineer, was being interviewed by law enforcement officials, she said.

Metrolink disclosed its findings so quickly, she said, because officials of the rail line, “want to remain on honorable grounds with the community.”

“One way to do that is to be honest and forthright from the beginning,” she said, adding, “We don’t come to this conclusion lightly.”

National Transportation Safety Board officials were far less conclusive. A safety board member, Kitty Higgins, said that while the agency could “absolutely not rule out” human error, it would examine track signals, equipment and many other factors. Three data recorders taken from the two trains, as well as a video recorder from the freight train, would be analyzed, she said.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, who arrived at the scene midafternoon, said, “The investigation, of course, continues on.”

At a news conference, Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa of Los Angeles said the last of the dead had just been pulled from the wreckage of the freight train’s 11 boxcars and the three Metrolink cars, which had been traveling from downtown to the city’s northern suburbs. The mayor quoted a firefighter who he said had told him: “It was very, very difficult. It was like peeling an onion, to find all the victims.”

Nearby, the Los Angeles County coroner set up a large tan air-conditioned tent in the grassy area between the wreck and Chatsworth Hills Academy.

Many passengers described how their quiet commute had been dotted with chatter about the coming weekend until it was punctured by instant terror and carnage shortly before 4:30 p.m. Friday.

Passengers flew into one another’s laps; nearly severed limbs became tangled together, and blood spilled along the cars’ aisles. In some cases, the living were trapped beneath the bodies of the dead.

The first sound was “a huge explosion,” said Greg Tevis, 59, who regularly rides the train from his downtown law office.

“People who had their legs under the seats got broken legs,” Mr. Tevis said. “People were moaning; you had to get them off the train. One lady was trapped under a seat, and we asked her if she wanted us to pull her out, because we didn’t know whether her spinal cord was hurt. She said to take her out.”

Rebecca Cathcart and Michael Parrish contributed reporting from Los Angeles, and Matthew L. Wald from Washington.

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