Federal investigators will subpoena the cell phone records of the engineer who is said to have been exchanging text messages just before his commuter train ran a red signal and smashed into a freight train here Friday, killing 25 people.
Kitty Higgins, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board, which is leading the investigation, said Sunday the agency will subpoena the records and question the young men who told KCBS-TV that they had exchanged text messages with the engineer just before the crash.
Whether the engineer, Robert Sanchez, who was killed, was distracted is among the questions investigators are seeking to answer. Others include whether the three-car Metrolink train and track equipment were functioning properly and what role dispatchers controlling train traffic might have played.
Metrolink officials said a dispatcher tried to warn Sanchez he was about to crash, but the call came too late, according to The Associated Press.
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In the deadliest U.S. train wreck in 15 years, the commuter train, headed from Union Station north to the suburbs, collided head-on with a Union Pacific freight train during rush hour Friday in a residential area of the San Fernando Valley. The crash, which also injured 135 people, nearly obliterated the front car of the commuter train and trapped all aboard for hours.
Officials at Metrolink have said the engineer passed a red signal without stopping, probably causing the accident. But federal investigators cautioned against conclusions and predicted the investigation could span many months.
Why the trains were on the same track heading toward each other at 40 mph has puzzled officials.
The state chairman of Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, the union representing Sanchez, said it remained to be determined why he would pass a red signal, whether a health problem disabled him or whether in fact the signal was red, as Metrolink insists.