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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 January 2005, 02:25 GMT
LA crash was like 'a bomb blast'
By Kari Browne
BBC News, in Los Angeles

Scene of the crash
Rescuers combed each train car for signs of trapped passengers
Rain drizzled upon the twisted wreckage of two commuter trains and one freight car after a suicidal man left his Jeep on top of a railroad crossing during the busy commute early on Wednesday.

The pile-up in Los Angeles killed 10 people.

Upon impact, the first train was said to have jumped track, going from 60mph (97km/h) to 0 in two seconds.

More than 40 passengers remain in critical condition, and the death toll may climb in days to come.

'Like a bomb'

In all, more than 200 commuters were injured in what officials are calling the worst train crash in recent Los Angeles history.

This is the worst train accident I have ever seen
Los Angeles Fire Department Capt. Rex Vilaubi

Passengers said the impact sounded and felt like a bomb exploding.

Dazed commuters who were unhurt by the derailment were seen helping fellow passengers with more severe injuries escape the wreckage.

City work crews hurriedly piled sandbags in street gutters to block streams of fuel leaking from the train mixed with rain threatening to contaminate storm drains leading out to the ocean.

The accident occurred behind a popular American food superstore, Costco, where employees assisted emergency crews with supplies from their store.

Store workers stacked food and water on tables for emergency crews, media and commuters milling about at the scene.

Combing debris

In what would normally be a bustling store car-park, television satellite lorries with reporters replaced four-wheel drives and mini-vans filled with shoppers, while yellow police tape cordoned off sections of parking spaces set aside for rescuers.

Scores of Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies, police officers, fire and medic crews worked together to rescue, recover and treat victims at the scene.

At least five helicopters swarmed above the wreckage beaming video back to local news stations, which carried hours of live coverage of the tragedy.

Crash investigators climbed atop one white carriage which had been flipped on its side, surveying the heaps of metal and debris.

Others continued to search each train car for signs of trapped passengers.

All major streets surrounding the crash scene were blocked off entirely, forcing thousands of local residents to use alternative routes in the peak of rush hour.

The 26-year-old owner of the Jeep was planning to kill himself when he had a sudden change of heart, apparently leaping from his vehicle moments before the train's impact, police said.

He was taken into custody near the scene and is now facing 10 counts of homicide.


SEE ALSO:
Timeline: US train accidents
26 Jan 05 |  Americas
Train crashes in California
06 Jan 03 |  Americas
Rail crash dead memorial service
08 Dec 04 |  Berkshire


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