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Update: Driver in Metrolink Crash Released

The driver of the truck that collided with a Metrolink chain in Oxnard has been released from custody as officials continue to investigate the accident that injured 28 passengers, including three critically. Alejandro Sanchez-Ramirez, 54, of Yuma, Ariz., was released Thursday night, though the Ventura County District Attorney’s office said it could file criminal charges once it reviews the results of the investigation. Sanchez-Ramirez, who officials had expected to arraign on Thursday, is now due back in court on May 4. District Attorney Gregory Totten cited the complexity of the ongoing investigation for his decision not to immediately proceed with a criminal case against Sanchez-Ramirez in the 5:40 a.m. Tuesday accident. “While charges will not be filed at this time, the arrest of Jose Sanchez-Ramirez by the Oxnard Police Department was clearly appropriate and lawful,” said Totten, in a prepared statement. Police said that Sanchez-Ramirez drove onto the tracks while trying to make a turn at the Fifth Street and Rice Avenue intersection. In the crash, a five-car commuter train bound for the San Fernando Valley carrying 51 passengers hit the truck. Three of the train cars flipped on their sides. Twenty-eight passengers had been transported to area hospitals, while others were treated at the scene. Two passengers remain in critical condition, including the 62-year-old engineer who has been transferred to a specialized care facility. The Los Angeles Times reported Friday that officials with the National Transportation Safety Board said the train was traveling 56 miles per hour when it hit the truck. The train’s data recorder shows the horn sounded 12 seconds before impact and that the emergency brakes were applied eight seconds before striking the truck, according to the story. A forward-facing camera showed the truck’s headlight and emergency flashers were on as the train approached. The truck faced the train and its passenger-side tires appeared to be straddling the southern rail while the tires on the driver’s side were outside the rails, the Times reported. NTSB member Robert Sumwalt said investigators believed Sanchez-Ramirez was driving south on Rice Avenue and may have intended to turn right on East 5th Street, but instead made the turn about 55 feet short of 5th Street onto the railroad tracks. “One of the things we’ll be looking at is how could a driver believe that that was a road,” Sumwalt was quoted by the Times. Speaking to reporters Wednesday afternoon, Ron Bamieh, an attorney for Sanchez-Ramirez, said his client was in the area because the Arizona resident was mapping out a route for a job he was to take in the area for his employer, The Growers Company Inc., of Somerton, Ariz. He said his client’s truck, which was carrying welding tools, became stuck on the track and could go forward but not get off the tracks. He said Sanchez-Ramirez put on his high beams and tried to push the vehicle off the tracks but was unable. “He was then forced to flee to save his own life,” Bamieh said, adding his client went looking for people but couldn’t find any.

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
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