Plans to raise the railroad tracks at the intersection of Buena
Vista Street and San Fernando Boulevard won’t become reality soon
enough for Jacek W. Wysocki.
Wysocki, 63, was killed Monday morning when a MetroLink train
headed south to the Burbank station broadsided his flatbed truck. The
train was traveling between 50 and 70 mph when it hit the truck at
the intersection of San Fernando Boulevard and Buena Vista Street,
Investigators are focusing on how Wysocki ended up on the tracks.
His family and friends remain bewildered.
“He was so meticulous,” said Walter Zach, a neighbor and friend of
Wysocki who came to the scene with his wife, Tina, and son Tuesday to
console Wysocki’s family. “He always examined the wheels of his
truck, and always examined the tires. The guy was not some
fresh-off-the-truck rookie who didn’t know what he was doing. He
didn’t miss a thing.”
Wysocki’s family gathered around a small memorial of flowers
inside the investigation area Tuesday afternoon. They did not respond
to a request for comment.
Two rail cars from the four-car train jumped the track Monday
after colliding with Wysocki’s truck. Wysocki was killed instantly,
and 32 of the train’s 58 passengers were injured, police said. Four
of the 32 were injured seriously, though no one else has died,
according to a MetroLink spokes- woman. The severed truck cab was
dragged by the train about 1,000 feet beyond the impact point, and
burned for several minutes after the collision. Authorities from
the Burbank Police Department and the National Transportation Safety
Board were investigating the crash Tuesday, as well as reviewing
safety at the crossing.
Wysocki apparently was trying to make a left turn onto Buena Vista
Street from San Fernando Boulevard, Burbank Traffic Det. Paul
Orlowski said. He stopped at the red light, but turned as the
four-way signals flashed, bells rang and crossing arms lowered,
“He cut across and behind the first downed barricade [arm]. He got
inside of the barricades directly in the path of the train and was
broadsided,” Orlowski said.
Orlowski said investigators are not sure if Wysocki was confused
or trying to get around the arms to beat the train.
Officials are evaluating the scene to see if improvements need to
be made to the intersection. But according to city traffic engineer
Ken Johnson, the four-way-flashing signal system that connects
traffic lights with crossing arms was operating properly. The area
was widened last year and a new warning system with longer crossing
arms was installed because of increased traffic due to the opening of
the Empire Center.
As part of a previously planned Caltrans project designed to ease
congestion, the train tracks at that intersection will be raised in
2004. They will go above Buena Vista Street, Johnson said.
MetroLink trains have collided with vehicles 127 times in the system’s 10-year history, and each time, a vehicle was illegally on
the track, Metrolink spokeswoman Sharon Gavin said.
Local police said drivers routinely try to cross this and the
other so-called “at-grade” crossing in the city, where the tracks and
the street are on the same level. Failure to stop for the signals and
even staying on the tracks are frequent violations, police said.
“We cite people a lot at this intersection,” Officer Timothy
Dyrness said of the crash site.