Train collides with car in Burbank

[UPDATE 8:01 p.m.] A southbound Metrolink train reportedly collided with a vehicle at the intersection of San Fernando Boulevard and Buena Vista Street in Burbank on Tuesday afternoon, police said.

The driver of the vehicle, an unidentified male, was transported to Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in critical condition, said Burbank Deputy Fire Marshal Jorge Martinez.

The driver was reportedly alone in the car, according to Burbank Police Officer Joshua Kendrick.

PHOTOS: Train collides with car at Burbank intersection

Police believe the driver was traveling in a Toyota Camry.

Roughly 130 people were onboard the Antelope Valley Line 220 train, according to Metrolink spokesman Jeff Lustgarten.

Six of the train passengers complained of back and neck pain, and were treated at the scene, Martinez said.

The cause of the crash was still under investigation. Burbank police warned motorists via Twitter to avoid the area.

Just after 5 p.m., the train was cleared by Burbank police to move, after which it traveled to the Burbank station, where the passengers were able to get off and transfer, Lustgarten said.

Metrolink lines 215, 217, 224, 226 were all canceled due to the incident. The tracks at the crossing, however, are reportedly open for trains to ride on restricted speeds, Lustgarten said.

The California Highway Patrol issued a Sig Alert at 3:54 p.m. for the northbound and southbound Buena Vista Street offramps of the Golden State (5) Freeway, which lasted about four hours.

Burbank resident Levon Gharibian, 24, was driving northbound on Buena Vista Street and stopped just behind a motor officer when he noticed that the train was approaching.

With his windows rolled up, he heard a small thump, and then saw sand-like debris flying as the train passed.

At first, he thought it was a mixture of trash and dust in the area.

He realized there had been a collision when he saw metal debris on the tracks and street, and the car – which looked like “a mauled-up gum wrapper” – to his right, with the airbag inflated.

“Had there not been any debris, I would’ve assumed that nothing occurred at all,” he said.

According to Lustgarten, the spokesperson for Metrolink, September marks California Rail Safety Awareness month, and this week, Metrolink planned an event to raise awareness of the dangers of unsafe behavior around crossings.

“We’re constantly urging people, whether they’re in their cars or on their bikes or on foot, if they’re near the tracks, you have to be extra careful,” Lustgarten said. “The trains come toward you much quicker than they appear, and unlike cars, they don’t have steering wheels, they can’t steer out of way.”

Depending on the length of the train, it can take between a quarter-mile to half-mile to come to a complete stop, he said.

While the circumstances of the collision remained unclear, the gates at the crossing were functioning properly, Lustgarten said.

The cab of the train sustained “a decent amount of damage” from the incident, Lustgarten said.

Rick Cooper, 67, who was born and raised in Burbank, said he wasn't surpised to see the wreck on Tuesday afternoon shortly after he came to Burbank to visit his old childhood home a few blocks away from the accident.

He didn't see the accident occur but he drove by the the scene shortly after.

"I was here when they put him in the ambulance," he said of the driver.

"This is not a very safe intersection. I've been to three different train accidents here."

For the thousands of motorists who pass through it every day, the rail crossing at Buena Vista and San Fernando Boulevard can be a hair-raising passage, with sharp turns and confusing signals that require drivers to move with split-second timing, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The intersection has seen two fatal incidents in recent years: On Jan. 6, 2003, Jacek "Jack" Wysocki, 63, rolled his Ford truck into the path of a Metrolink train traveling 79 mph at the intersection. The driver was killed along with one train passenger; two train cars derailed and flipped, injuring 20 other Metrolink riders, the Times reports.

Exactly three years later, Maureen Osborn, 76, was killed after turning in front of a Metrolink commuter train traveling 75 mph. Osborn's car was dragged a third of a mile before the train could stop.


Kelly Corrigan contributed to this report. Follow Kelly on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.

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