Police arrested truck driver Jose Alejandro Sanchez Ramirez on a felony hit-and-run charge after his wrong turn caused a crash with a Metrolink commuter train in Oxnard, leaving at least 28 people injured Tuesday morning.
What we know:
28 people were injured, 4 are in critical condition. 50 people were on the train, including 3 Metrolink employees.
4 cars derailed, with some landing on their sides.
The truck driver, who left the scene, has been arrested on suspicion of felony hit-and-run.
The NTSB says it appears the truck had been driving down the tracks before the crash
3 of 4 cars were made with new “energy management” system for crashes.
The wife of the driver whose truck collided early Tuesday with a Metrolink commuter train in Oxnard spoke out Tuesday evening, telling the Los Angeles Times that explosive collision that followed was not her husband's fault.
Lucila Sanchez said her husband is a mechanic and was heading to a job site in Oxnard when his truck unexpectedly stalled on the tracks. She said he was unable to start the engine and -- with the train fast approaching -- jumped out of his truck.
“It's not his fault,” she said. “It's the truck company's fault. They gave him a truck that doesn't work.”
The creak of cranes shifting the overturned Metrolink cars echoed in the air. Two cranes lifted one car from the crash site, placing it back onto the tracks and rolling it away. Another remained on its side, while workers stabilized a third silver car, left slanted and derailed.
The Metrolink operator is the most critically injured of the six train passengers taken to the hospital, said Bryan Wong, chief medical officer for Ventura County Medical Center.
"He has been moved into our ICU and is being worked on actively to stabilize his injuries,"Wong said.
His son was flown in from the Temucula area and is now with him. He suffered chest injuries.
"Really the next 24 to 48 hours will give us the best sense of how he will recover from his injuries. Certainly our hope is that his body rallies and his heart and lungs start to turn the corner," Wong said.
He has not been operated on and when he arrived at the hospital he was communicative. Wong said he's not expected to undergo surgery.
"At this point we're still moment to moment," Wong said.
The derailment of a five-car Metrolink train headed to downtown Los Angeles from East Ventura County was triggered by a produce truck driver who turned onto the railroad tracks instead of the street and got his vehicle stuck, Oxnard police said.
The driver, a 54-year-old Arizona native, was hauling a 12-foot trailer and was southbound on Rice Avenue and wanted to turn right onto 5th Street when he turned right onto the railroad tracks instead and got stuck, said Oxnard police assistant chief Jason Benites.
The truck, which appeared to be an early 2000s-model Ford F-150, sat there and was hit by the train, which then derailed and sent three of its five cars spilling onto the nearby gravel and adjacent street. Authorities said 28 people were injured, four of them critically including the train's engineer.
While authorities rushed to the scene to help the injured, an Oxnard police officer found the driver more than a mile away from the crash, Benites said. The driver “appeared disoriented” and was taken to a local hospital for observation. The driver is cooperating with police, Benites said.
In a 2003 Column One, The Times looked at why drivers are so often blamed for carelessness when trains and cars collide and found the issue more complicated than poor driving. Here's an excerpt:
Scientists say that many of these accidents are caused by deadly misperceptions, the visual and behavioral quirks known to science but not to ordinary drivers. And making rail-crossing encounters even more treacherous are train and crossing designs that fail to take into account how people perceive and behave.