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What was the cause of the Metrolink accident and could it have been avoided?Richard Sanchez seems to have several issues, both personally and professionally that added to the culmination of events on the fateful day, Friday, September 12, 2008. The Metrolink, with Mr. Sanchez at the controls not only did not follow procedure on several occasions over the hour and twenty-two minutes it took for train 111 to leave the station and collide with the Union Pacific freight train. This incident may, in part, be explained when looking at the shoplifting conviction, suicide of his partner, five disciplinary letters for absences and failure to follow the rules, two warnings about cell phone use while working, and his train striking a suicidal man causing his death [Ste11]. This fateful day Mr. Sanchez, possibly tired from working spilt shifts, ignored proper procedures associated with safety. First failure was not calling dispatch to call out the yellow light indicating he should prepare to stop, received a text even though cell phone use was against policy. Then he passed a red signal, again failing to radio in the stop signal, and did not stop. Seconds later he replied to the text as the train passed over a switch meant for an oncoming train, which put the Metrolink 111 on the same tracks as the Union Pacific [Ste11]. The trains did not have visibility of each other as they both entered the curve, headed straight at each other. Seconds before impact the Union Pacific engineer hit his emergency brake while Mr. Sanchez took no action. The train’s collided just seconds after Mr. Sanchez neglected to obey the red light by stopping his train. He was crushed by the Union Pacific along with 23 passengers on the Metrolink 111 all due to failure of procedure [Ste11].Mr. Sanchez caused the accident because his behavior and brazen disregard for safety rules of the train management company, Connex. Even after repeated warnings, disciplinary letters, and verbal reprimands Mr. Sanchez continued his brazen disregard for rules. He failed to call out two signals, but had time to make four phone calls, send 21 text messages, and receive 21 messages. Is the high cost of train control justified by the likely safety gains for passengers?This tragedy could easily been avoided, but the implementation of electronically controlled pneumatic brakes (ECP) would not have prevented this accident. The Halliburton group is lobbying to block implementation of by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) because of estimated cost of $3 billion, causing an already small margin to become even smaller (Morgan, 2015). Safety implementations should be considered, but the all of the failures in the Metrolink 111 accident were of a human nature and not one of a mechanical. Even if ECP brakes were on these trains it would not have prevented this accident because by the time the train engineer on the Union Pacific saw Mr. Sanchez’s train only 23 seconds passed before collision [Ste11].
The NTSB statistics show railroad deaths up, but the majority of fatalities are the result oftrespassers that are struck by trains.