OXNARD, Calif. – Metrolink train derailed early Tuesday in Oxnard after slamming into a truck, injuring 28 people, four of them critically.
The driver of the truck left the scene and was taken into custody, officials said.
A Metrolink engineer was among the most severely injured, said Bryan Wong, chief medical officer at Ventura County Medical Center.
The train was going 79 mph near the crossing at 5th Street and Rice Avenue at about 5:40 a.m. when its engineer spotted the truck, said Sergio Martinez of the Oxnard Fire Department.
The engineer immediately hit the brakes but was unable to stop in time, officials said. Four train cars derailed.
There were no fatalities, but 28 of the 51 passengers on board were injured and taken to local hospitals. Injuries included significant head trauma, broken limbs, and back and neck injuries, emergency service personnel said.
At Ventura County Medical Center, Wong said of the nine patients brought to the hospital three were in critical condition.
He said he spoke with one train passenger, now in stable condition. The man told Wong he sitting at a small table working on his laptop when he felt a sudden jerking movement.
“It was so quick, he wasn’t able to hold onto the table and he was thrown literally across the train,” Wong said.
There were a lot of friends and family members at the bedside of those hospitalized, Wong said.
Nearby business owner Mark Perrier said he heard the crash Tuesday morning.
“It was horrendous,” Perrier said. “There was a very loud crash. The engineer was on his horn.”
Two neighbors told the L.A. Times that the safety arms at the crossing don’t drop when a train is coming.
But Metrolink spokesman Scott Johnson said, “All indications are that, at the point of the incident, everything at the crossing including the gate arms and emergency notifications and bells were working properly.”
Fire officials at the scene said the train was traveling at its cruising speed of 79 mph when the engineer spotted the truck and anticipated the crash from “a far distance out.”
The engineer immediately initiated the train’s flashing lights and braking mechanisms.
The exact type of vehicle struck by the train wasn’t immediately known. But fire officials said it was not uncommon for farm equipment to travel through the area.
Initially, officials said the truck was on fire before it was hit by the train. Capt. Mike Linbery, public information officer for the Ventura county Fire Department, later said officials were unsure if the truck was on fire before or after the crash.
A trailer being towed by the truck was on fire when authorities arrived, Lindbery said.
The driver left the scene but was found a couple of miles away and was taken into custody, officials said.
Jorge Garcia, 56, was getting ready for work when he heard something unusual shortly before 6 a.m. He didn’t think much of it until he heard the ambulances racing past his home.