Engineer sent text message seconds before crash

LOS ANGELES — A Metrolink engineer sent a cell phone text message 22 seconds before his commuter train crashed head-on into a freight train last month, killing 25 people, federal investigators said Wednesday.

Cell phone records of engineer Robert Sanchez, who was among the dead, show he sent a message after receiving one about a minute and 20 seconds before the crash, the National Transportation Safety Board said. Investigators are looking into why he ran a red signal and collided with a Union Pacific train Sept. 12 in Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley. It was the nation's deadliest rail crash since 1993.

He sent his last text message at 4:22:01 p.m. The accident occurred at 4:22:23 p.m. Metrolink policy bars engineers from the practice.

Records obtained from Sanchez's cell phone provider showed he sent 24 text messages and received 21 messages over a two-hour period in his morning shift. In his afternoon shift, he received seven and sent five messages.

Safety experts said they were shocked that Sanchez was texting during what is the most critical moment during the train's run. Also, Metrolink board member Richard Katz said the NTSB told his agency another Metrolink engineer has been suspended for sending a text message from his cell about the same time as the Sept. 12 collision. That engineer was not identified. Katz said officials don't know whom the other engineer was texting.

Engineer sent text message seconds before crash 10/01/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 3, 2010 2:25pm]

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