Metrolink crash: 'No, no, no, this can't be happening'

Passengers in Metrolink train crash in Oxnard describe surreal crash. "No, no, no, this can't be happening."

Keana Grey was in the front seat of the lower deck of the second car from the front when the Metrolink train shook.

The 19-year-old looked out the window and thought she was dreaming: The front car was turning around and just a few yards away from her outside of the left window. The lighting in her car illuminated the other car outside.

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“No, no, no, this can’t be happening,” Grey recalled thinking. “Then the lights went out. ... A split second later, there was a sharp jostling, and we were knocked out of our seats about a foot or more into the air. At the time, it felt like a long drop back into my seat.”

The car Grey was riding in toppled over onto its left side, landing on the tracks. She heard groaning.

“Then I heard the voice of a gentleman behind me asking out loud, ‘Is everyone all right? Can everyone walk?’ ” Grey recalled.

The man took her hand and led her out of the car. “We climbed over the connector that coupled our car to the front car. And then climbed out the door. There was smoke and there were flames about 100 yards in front of us,” Grey said.

From the nearby pepper and strawberry fields, farmworkers ran out to the train’s car and reached out to help, she said.

“They were asking if I was all right. They had it together. They were cool and calm. They led me and others across the street,” Grey said. “And they led us to a place across the street. A few of them went into the car to help others.”

Grey was taken to a hospital in Thousand Oaks for back pain and then released.

“Keana called me and said ‘Daddy, come pick me up,’ ” said her father, Phil Grey, 49, a systems engineer with the U.S. Department of Justice. “I jumped into the car and sped off. It took me five minutes to get to all the red lights” of the emergency vehicles.

Away from the crash scene, he waited for his daughter.

Joel Bingham 44, a train buff and street car manufacturer, had just gotten on the train to head to work in Chatsworth when the train went into emergency mode. He thought it was a mechanical issue and thought to himself, "Oh man, I'm going to be late to work."

He said he was riding downstairs in the second car and initially felt just the slightest impact before seeing a truck on the track blow up as he stared at it.

“It was like the movies,” Bingham said. “It exploded when I went by."

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Then his car went off the rails and into the dirt. It was still upright when Bingham yelled, "Are you guys OK?"

Then the car teetered at a 45-degree angle, still traveling at a freeway speed off the tracks. The lights went out.

“Everything started flying,” Bingham said.

His elbows and knees were hitting things and “it seemed like forever to come to a stop. It seemed like slow motion,” he said.

The train took out a telephone pole. Bingham held tight to a pole inside the car, his body like a flag whipping around it.

When the train came to a stop Bingham said he opened a safety window, which weighs about 70 pounds. He said to the others inside the car, "Come to my voice." He told everyone to exit through the window. 

He said he used the emergency exit to go upstairs to look for people – and then he stepped outside.

It was nearly as dark outside the train car as it was suddenly inside.

Bingham said he was sure the train engineer had to be dead. But then he saw the engineer, wearing a neck brace and being taken away on a stretcher.

Twitter: @LouisSahagun; @amcovarrubias

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