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Witness to Metrolink crash: 'It was just a horrendous ball of fire'

Witness to Metrolink crash: 'It was just a horrendous ball of fire'
After this Metrolink train car tipped over, passengers made their way out by walking on one of the car's walls instead of the now-vertical floor. (Ted Maloney)

Ted Maloney, 59, was driving to work in Ventura on 5th Street, about to make a left turn on Rice Avenue when he heard the Metrolink train's horn just before it crashed into a pickup truck.

The sound was insistent, almost desperate, as if someone "just laid into the horn" inside the train, Maloney said.

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Then he saw why.

"I looked up, and it was just a horrendous ball of fire," Maloney said.

He reached into his passenger seat, grabbed his cellphone and snapped photographs.

Maloney drove off the road and sat in his car for a few seconds, staring at the fire.

"This isn't happening," he recalled thinking. "I gotta help these people."

As Maloney ran toward two train cars that were flipped on their sides, he was met by two farmworkers from a nearby strawberry field.

They helped Maloney, who has an artificial knee, climb into one of the trains.

Inside the train car, he saw a few passengers walking around in "a daze," but most of them were lying on the ground.

Purses, lunch sacks, laptops and boxes were strewn throughout the car.

"Is anybody bleeding?" Maloney screamed.

He heard someone yell back, "Yes, this lady's bleeding,"

Maloney searched for a first aid kit, but couldn't find one. So, he grabbed a sweater, placed it under the woman's head and held her hand.

"She called me 'an angel,' " he said. "I said 'No, I am just here to help you.'"

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For the next 15 minutes, Maloney talked to the woman, who had been heading to work in downtown Los Angeles. He tried to keep her mind off her injuries, which looked serious to Maloney.

To his eyes, Maloney said it looked like the woman she was suffering from head, neck and back trauma.

He gathered her purse and slid it under her arm. Maloney said he placed her laptop and other belongings next to her.

"It seemed like an eternity," he said.

Then firefighters appeared and took over.

"People needed help," Maloney said hours after the crash. "I did what anybody else would do."

Twitter: @VeronicaRochaLA

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