Moorpark to Union Station hit the car and careened into a parked
locomotive and another passenger train, killing 11 people and
injuring more than 180. The three trains lay smashed on a track
between Chevy Chase Drive and Los Feliz Boulevard.
Those 11 lives might have been saved and the damage reduced if the
train that slammed into Alvarez's Jeep had been pulled by its
locomotive instead of pushed from behind, said Timothy Smith, the
state legislative chairman for the Brotherhood of Locomotive
Engineers and Trainmen.
The cab car that led the train caught on the Jeep, and the middle
cars were smashed in an accordion effect by the locomotive that was
still chugging in the rear, Smith said. The cab car has seating for
passengers and a control booth for the engineer.
If it had been the locomotive that struck the Jeep head-on, the
outcome might have been less perilous, he said.
"The heavier locomotive, more times than not, shoves the obstacle,
whereas a cab car will more than likely derail," said Smith, a
32-year locomotive engineer who has been in several train collisions.
The union has been lobbying for 10 years to do away with the
"push-pull" system, which has the locomotive push cars one way and
pull them the other, and instead just pull the cars, Smith said.
After the disaster Wednesday, Mayor Bob Yousefian called on state
and federal lawmakers to work toward eliminating all grade crossings.
He said doing away with the crossings would keep cars off railroad
tracks and speed up commuter and freight train travel.
In their place, Yousefian said a bridge could be built over
railroad tracks or an underpass could be dug.
"In this county, we haven't put a lot of money into this
technology, and we are so far behind [Asian and European countries],"
he said. "And then we ask people to take the train to work instead of
their cars, and this tragedy happens. We are sending the wrong
message to people."
But the elimination of grade crossings is not a new notion nor an
inexpensive task, Yousefian said. Southern California Assn. of
Government studies have estimated that removing them in Southern