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Metrolink Hits Truck as Driver Leaps Out

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Metrolink train slammed into a tractor-trailer stuck on the tracks with a dead engine Monday morning, demolishing it, but the truck driver escaped by jumping from the cab.

Three train passengers were slightly injured, one of whom was taken to Pacifica Hospital of the Valley after complaining of back pain.

At 7:50 a.m., Zbigniew Dabrowski), 38, was crossing the MTA tracks at San Fernando Road and Penrose Street when his truck stalled.

“I was trying to restart the engine for about 10 minutes,” Dabrowski said. “Then the gate hit the top of the cab and I realized the train was coming. I thought: ‘OK, it’s time to do something quick.’ ”

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The locomotive was approaching with its lights flashing and its horn blaring, Dabrowski said. Los Angeles Fire Battalion Chief Daryl Arbuthnoff estimated the train’s speed at 80 mph.

“I jumped out of the cab at the last second,” Dabrowski said. “I was in the air when I heard a big boom and crash. When I hit the ground, I turned around and I saw the trailer moving.”

The speeding train swatted the truck off the track and flung its massive engine block 40 feet down the tracks. Minutes later the truck’s diesel fuel tank ignited, burning the ruined cab.

Metrolink officials said the train, which was on its way to Union Station in Los Angeles from Sylmar, was badly damaged and will be taken out of service for repairs. Regular service was restored on the route later in the day.

Los Angeles police said they would not cite Dabrowski, who was hauling 19 tons of cosmetic supplies and American Express credit applications from Chicago. Dabrowski said he was a block away from his first drop-off point.

“I’ve been on the road for three days,” Dabrowski said.

In a separate incident about an hour later, a Metro Blue Line train slammed into a car at Washington Boulevard and Los Angeles Street in downtown Los Angeles. One person sustained minor injuries and was taken to Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center.

There have been 56 fatalities on Metrolink tracks in Southern California since 1992 and 40 on MTA lines since 1990.

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MTA officials have cited 5,000 people since 1995 for illegally crossing the tracks when the signals are displayed. Glendale and Burbank police also have launched a crackdown, sending officers to ride on trains from time to time, where they can spot pedestrians and vehicles crossing the tracks illegally and contact a patrol car by radio to close in and issue a citation.


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