A commuter train and a freight train collided in the northern San Fernando Valley late Friday afternoon in a crash that killed at least 10 people. At least 40 others were injured and others remained trapped in the wreckage despite the efforts of more than 100 firefighters, police officers and paramedics.
Several cars derailed and the two trains collided with such force that most of one freight train engine was inside a Metrolink passenger car.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said the death toll could reach as high as 15. Los Angeles police Lt. John Romero said it may reach as high as 20.
As many as 400 people might have been on the train, officials said.
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Ten of the injuries were considered critical, sheriff's officials said.
One of the injured passengers, Willie Castro, 67, of Simi Valley said he was in the last Metrolink car at the time of the crash.
Castro, who said he thought his leg was broken, said he was sitting by a window of the Metrolink car, talking to passengers about work and about the coming weekend when the crash occurred.
“I was riding, sitting down, minding my own business, when all of a sudden – boom, people go flying all over the place,” he said. “Everyone started screaming. You could hear that everyone was in pain.”
The passenger train was Metrolink 111, which left Union Station in Los Angeles at 3:35 p.m. and was headed for Oxnard. The wreck occurred on a steep, curving track in a rugged area near a rock formation called Stoney Point Park about a quarter-mile south of the Ronald Reagan Freeway.
In the initial response, firefighters were making their way through a derailed passenger train looking for victims. Others swarmed on top of passenger cars, using their hands, hand tools and power tools to pry open the cars. Some could be seen smashing windows in an effort to reach those trapped in the wreckage.
Many passengers could be seen being carried out of the overturned cars on stretchers and backboards.
Several triage and staging areas were established.
John Perdigao, 43, said he was headed from Union Station to his home in Moorpark about 20 miles distant. He said the crash took place about two minutes after the train pulled out of the Chatsworth station, the last in Los Angeles.
“All of a sudden, everything just went forward and people started screaming,” said Perdigao. “After that I basically started helping to get people out.”
Denise Tyrell, a spokeswoman for Metrolink, said it remains unclear what caused the collision.
“It's very hard to speculate at this point,” Tyrell told a TV station.