Metrolink crash: 'All of the sudden people just started flying'

Tarlee Coleman, 53, woke up at 5:46 a.m. to a phone call from his older sister.

She was crying and he heard screams. He asked if something had happened at home.


He heard more screams, but couldn't make out what anyone was saying. He asked her, again, what was wrong.

She muttered: "Train wreck."

He thought he heard wrong, but she repeated it.

"Did you tip over?" he asked.

"Yeah, tipped over," she said though sobs.

She was seated in the train's second level on her daily commute from Oxnard to Los Angeles, where she works for the county's housing department.  The train ramming into a truck, injuring 28 people, four of them critically.

It was dark out still.

Then, without warning, she levitated and her head whacked into a window.

"She said all of the sudden people just started flying," he said. "Flying and screaming."

"I just kept telling her, 'Don't move, don't move,' " he said, not wanting her to get more seriously injured.

Coleman said he could hear another voice in the background -- someone trying to help his sister. Then the phone call cut off.

"I couldn't believe it," he said, dropping his head and tearing up as the moment replayed in his mind.

He rushed to St. John's Regional Medical Center in Oxnard. When he arrived, his sister was awake and talking. She was shaken up and her right leg felt numb. She described how someone pulled her from an opening in the train.


Four hours later, she was still in the hospital getting a series of X-rays.

Coleman left the emergency room to smoke a cigarette.

"Man, she's blessed," he said. "All these people are blessed."

He stopped and dropped his head, remembering not everyone was doing as well as his sister.

"Well, hopefully," he said, as he walked slowly back toward the hospital, pausing for a moment to look up at a sign in capital red letters. "EMERGENCY," it read.

"I need to go check on her again," he said. "Wow."

Nine people who were seriously injured in the derailment were taken to Ventura County Medical Center.

"I saw seven of the nine patients and they were all relatively calm. Many were grateful for the very coordinated process they saw going through. ... There was not a sense of panic," said Bryan Wong, chief medical officer at the hospital.

Six of the nine patients received by the hospital were expected to remain there overnight, including three with critical injuries. The train engineer is among them, Wong said.

"We anticipate we have a variety of needs operatively," he said, citing head injuries, broken ribs and at least fractured spine.

Wong said one passenger told him he was using his laptop at a small table on the train when he suddenly felt a jerking movement.

"It was so quick he wasn't able to hold onto the table and he was thrown literally across the train, was his description," Wong said.

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