California train crash: Engineer 'touch and go,' heart stopped twice

California train crash: Engineer 'touch and go,' heart stopped twice
Police officers investigate the site of the Feb. 24 Metrolink train crash with a truck in Oxnard. (Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

The train operator severely injured in Tuesday's Metrolink crash is clinging to life after his heart stopped twice on Wednesday.

A day after the commuter train barreled into a heavy-duty pickup truck in Oxnard and derailed, the engineer was among three still in critical condition at Ventura County Medical Center, said Chief Medical Officer Bryan Wong.


"We've been able to keep his heart back now, but it's certainly unstable and we're not certain what that's going to lead to," Wong said. "It's touch and go right now in terms of whether he'll make it."

Wong said he visited some of the patients who remained at the hospital after Tuesday's crash.

Officials said 28 people were hospitalized after the pre-dawn crash at 5th Street and Rice Avenue sent three passenger cars tumbling off the tracks and derailed a fourth car and the locomotive. The victims who suffered minor injuries have been gradually released from area hospitals. The most seriously injured were taken to VCMC.

Among those still at the hospital was a regular on the East Ventura Metrolink line, Wong said.  When he asked the woman how she was doing, she only asked about the train's engineer.

"It was very heartwarming," Wong said. "It really reflects upon what type of man … [he] was and the lives that he touched."

The engineer went into cardiac arrest, his heart stopping, at 10 a.m. and then a second time after medical personnel restarted it, Wong said.

Meanwhile, the investigation into what caused the crash and the train’s derailment continues. The National Transportation Safety Board is reviewing the train's data recorder and footage from its cameras and investigating how and why the truck ended up on the tracks.

Oxnard police arrested the truck's driver, Jose Alejandro Sanchez-Ramirez, 54, for allegedly abandoning his truck on the tracks after it got stuck. His attorney, Ron Bamieh, said Sanchez-Ramirez accidentally turned onto the tracks when he thought he was turning onto a street and couldn't drive the truck off the tracks once it was on them. His client left the truck to find help and tried to warn the train by flashing the truck's high beams before the crash, Bamieh said.

Sanchez-Ramirez was found more than a mile away from the site and was arrested on suspicion of felony hit and run. He's scheduled to be arraigned Thursday afternoon.

Service on the line was shut down for the remainder of Tuesday but was restored by Wednesday afternoon.

For the latest on the Metrolink crash, follow @brittny_mejia and @JosephSerna.