A 58-year-old Arizona man was sentenced to 30 days in jail and three years of probation for his role in a 2015 Metrolink train derailment in Oxnard that killed a train engineer and injured more than 30 people, prosecutors announced Thursday.
Jose Alejandro Sanchez-Ramirez pleaded guilty to misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter in the February 2015 crash. The maximum penalty Sanchez-Ramirez could have received was a year in county jail, said Scott Hendrickson, an official with the Ventura County district attorney’s office.
Sanchez-Ramirez was driving a pickup truck when he turned the wrong way on an Oxnard street and ended up driving onto the train tracks. His vehicle got stuck on the tracks, and a Los Angeles-bound Metrolink train slammed into the truck.
Metrolink engineer Glenn Steele died from his injuries a week after the crash, which derailed four of the train’s cars and overturned three of them.
The Ventura County district attorney’s office said in a statement Thursday that Sanchez-Ramirez was driving south on Rice Avenue near 5th Street about 5:30 a.m. when he turned right onto the railroad tracks. After his Ford F-450 stopped on the tracks at a crossing with a history of deadly crashes, prosecutors said he abandoned his vehicle and didn’t alert authorities.
In 2015, Sanchez-Ramirez’s attorney said his client was on his way to a job site after traveling from Arizona when his vehicle got stuck on the train tracks. The attorney said Sanchez-Ramirez panicked when he saw the train coming, tried flashing the truck’s high beams to warn the engineer and then ran for help. Police arrested Sanchez-Ramirez later that morning about 1½ miles from the crash site.
A final report from the National Transportation Safety Board said the train collided with the truck 12 minutes after the pickup became lodged on the tracks. It also reported that Sanchez-Ramirez had been on the road for nearly 17 hours before the derailment after a car breakdown and a minor crash — meaning he had been awake and working for almost 24 hours. The report said Sanchez-Ramirez may have misinterpreted directions from a navigation app on his phone because of a lack of sleep and made the wrong turn onto the tracks.
Sanchez-Ramirez will serve his 30-day sentence in the Ventura County Jail, prosecutors said.