The National Transportation Safety Board has released a preliminary report about last month’s collision between a Metrolink train and truck in Oxnard and found that the driver took a wrong turn and his vehicle got stuck on the track.
The details of the report on the Feb. 24 accident at Fifth Street and Rice Avenue are consistent with earlier reports by authorities, as well as the statements made by driver Jose Alejandro Sanchez-Ramirez, 54, of Yuma, Ariz.
Thirty-one passengers and two crew members suffered injuries ranging from minor to serious. Train engineer Glenn Steele, 62, of Homeland, in Riverside County, later died of his injuries and was the sole fatality.
The report found that prior to the 5:44 a.m. accident, Sanchez-Ramirez, who had driven to California for a job, made a wrong turn onto the tracks at a grade crossing in the dark. He drove about 80 feet down the tracks before the truck and a trailer he was towing became “high centered” on one of the rails and wouldn’t move. The driver left on his headlights and emergency blinkers, opened the door and left the scene before the accident occurred.
The report noted that a student engineer was operating the train, with Steele monitoring him. The student engineer sounded the horn according to federal regulations and hit the emergency brake eight seconds before impact.
When the train hit the pickup, all four passenger cars derailed, with three coming to rest on their side, but the locomotive at the rear of the train remained on the tracks.
Sanchez-Ramirez was arrested on suspicion of hit-and-run causing multiple injuries, but Ventura County prosecutors declined to press charges pending the conclusion of the NTSB investigation. A final report may not be issued for up to a year. The driver is due back in court May 4.
Last week, two people who were injured in the crash and unable to return to work filed a lawsuit against Metrolink.