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Engineer Was Texting Seconds Before Crash

POSTED: 06:16 PM ET, 10/ 1/2008 by Derek Kravitz

The engineer implicated in a train accident last month that killed 25 people in Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley sent a text message from his cell phone 22 seconds before the crash, federal investigators said today.

Federal investigators combed through the cell phone records of 46-year-old Robert Sanchez, who was killed in the crash, and found the text message, which was sent at 4:22 p.m., the National Transportation Safety Board said in a statement.

Investigators are still trying to pinpoint what caused Sanchez to run through a red-light signal and collide with a Union Pacific train Sept. 12 in Chatsworth, Calif.

The accident, which also injured 130 people, was the deadliest rail mishap in the United States since 1993.

Attention has turned to text messages sent and received by Sanchez since several teenaged "train enthusiasts" told television reporters from Los Angeles' CBS2 that they had been communicating with Sanchez moments before the crash.

But Sanchez's brother, John P. Sanchez, in an interview with The Los Angeles Times, said he feared his brother's reputation was being unfairly tarnished before all of the facts could be gathered and asked for a "more thorough investigation into whether Metrolink signal lights, radios and other safety equipment were functioning."

By Derek Kravitz |  October 1, 2008; 6:16 PM ET
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

Is no one else save myself extremely curious as to why this 46 year old man was texting 2 teenage boys at the time of the horrific accident??

I find that odd in and of itself. What were they discussing, why hasn't a transcript of the actual texts been released, yet?

Posted by: JAMShocks | October 1, 2008 7:48 PM

there is no excuse for such a fatal crash.
they should train them better when so many people lives are in their hands. they can't make one mistake or this is what happens. why don't they have cameras and see what they are doing in front.

Posted by: mary | October 1, 2008 8:42 PM

The entire train industry has been a haven for winos and slackers for 100 years. Slap a toolbox on the dead man floor switch and drink up...!! Now it's time to reform the braggart overpaid slackers with high tech breathalyzers connected to trail locomotive control systems. The have proven over and over again for decades that they cannot be trusted to police themselves.... Let "Big Brother" be constantly over their shoulder forevermore.....

Posted by: Rick Crago | October 1, 2008 10:20 PM

Check out the Northern District of Ohio case Petre v. Norfolk and Southern. A mother and several children were killed at a crossing while returning from a church picnic.

Train crew blew the horn late at an obstructed crossing. The conductor is audio recorded in the cabin telling the engineer not to tell anyone he was reading a book.

The court found that the clear inattentiveness of the crew was not a factor in the crash and dismissed the case.

It's a travesty that it takes the death of 25 people to make the press and public realize that train operators cause crashes.

Posted by: Jdog | October 1, 2008 10:48 PM

Can't legislate good judgement.

Posted by: T-Prop | October 2, 2008 12:09 AM

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