By Ari B. Bloomekatz
7:10 PM PST, December 24, 2008
Patricia Hammersley's son Michael Hammersley, 45, was on his way home from his job as a mail clerk at Los Angeles City Hall when Metrolink 111 collided head-on with a Union Pacific freight train.
National Transportation Safety Board investigators have said that Robert M. Sanchez, the commuter train's engineer, sent and received dozens of text messages while on duty the day of the crash, including one 22 seconds before impact.
In addition, Metrolink officials, as well as preliminary safety board findings, have said the commuter train ran a red light just before colliding with the Union Pacific train.
The color of the light, however, has been disputed by the surviving crewman, conductor Robert Heldenbrand, whose attorney has said he told investigators that he saw a green signal just before the train pulled out of the Chatsworth station, its final stop before the crash.
Sanchez, 46, of La Crescenta was among the 25 people killed in the Sept. 12 crash, which injured 135 others.
Michael Hammersley's family did not learn that he was among the dead until 2 p.m. the next day, more than 21 hours after the collision. His mother's lawsuit was filed the same day as at least four other lawsuits by people hurt in the crash.
John Freel of Camarillo, Phillip Thiele and Frank Kohler of Simi Valley, and Eric Welling of Moorpark are seeking "recovery of compensation for personal property damage and personal injuries."
The lawsuits were filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court and name Veolia Transportation Services Inc., Connex Railroad and the Sanchez estate as defendants.
Two other lawsuits have been filed against the regional rail authority that operates Metrolink, several contractors and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, according to the Associated Press.
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