Federal investigators have revealed for the first time that not only
had Metrolink engineer Robert Sanchez allowed youthful train
enthusiasts to ride along with him in his locomotive's cab, but also permitted some to work the train's controls. In fact, Sanchez, an avid text-messenger, was busy making plans for one of them to come aboard Train 111 just days before the fateful afternoon of September 12, 2008, when Sanchez's train missed a stop signal in Chatsworth and slammed into a Union Pacific freight train, killing himself and 24 other people.
Photo: Ted Soqui/Click to enlarge
The report, issued by the National Transportation Safety Board, says Sanchez sent 21 texts and four phone calls the day of the tragedy, while receiving 22 text messages. In the excerpt below, Sanchez is identified as “Engineer,” while “Person A” is one of the train enthusiasts.
[Engineer to Person A: “yea….but I'm REALLY looking forward to getting you in the
cab and showing you how to run a locomotive. “
[Person A to Engineer]: ” Omg dude me too. Running a locomotive. Having all of that in
the palms of my hands. Its a great feeling. And ill do it so good
from all my practice on the simulator.”
[Engineer to person A]: “I'm gonna do all the radio talkin'…ur gonna run the locomotive
& I'm gonna tell u how to do it. “
On January 6, lawyers for several of the wreck's victims
announced it was suing Metrolink and Veolia-Connex, the system's
subcontracting operator, alleging that both organizations knew of
Sanchez's repeated violations of workplace bans against cell-phone
usage, yet did nothing to curb his practice of calling and texting
others from his cab while on duty.
Today's L.A. Times reports that
Connex, in a prepared statement, called Sanchez's practices “rogue
behavior” and that his “repugnant” work habits were “contrary to the
most fundamental rules of rail operation”
— yet also unknown
to his co-workers and supervisors.