Safety board issues first findings in train-on-truck crash

OXNARD, Calif. (AP) — A truck driver mistakenly turned onto the tracks of a commuter rail line and went about 80 feet before getting stuck, federal accident investigators wrote Thursday in their initial findings about a deadly train collision last month outside Los Angeles.

The National Transportation Safety Board’s preliminary report reiterates much of what investigators discussed in the days after the train-on-truck crash in Oxnard, about 65 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

Officials said Jose Alejandro Sanchez-Ramirez of Yuma, Arizona, meant to turn right on a road after the railroad crossing but instead turned prematurely in the pre-dawn darkness. He abandoned his Ford F450 with its hazard lights flashing and headlights on as the Metrolink train approached.

A student engineer blasted the horn and hit the emergency brakes about a quarter-mile before the collision. About eight seconds later, the train smashed into the truck and a trailer it was towing.

The train’s principal engineer died a week after the Feb. 24 crash that also injured 31 passengers and the two other crew members.

Ventura County authorities arrested Sanchez-Ramirez and later released him, saying they would decide later in the investigation whether to file charges. On Thursday, the office said it was still weighing possible charges.

“We won’t make a decision until we’re confident the investigation is concluded and we have all the facts in front of us,” said Mike Frawley, chief deputy district attorney for Ventura County.

The safety board has said its final conclusions won’t be ready for months.

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