solely responsible for the January Metrolink derailment that killed
11 and injured 200.
Metrolink has a share in the blame, he contends, for failing to
employ simple safety measures. Pfiester also criticized Metrolink
senior management for lacking the "utmost care for safe passage of
Two Metrolink trains collided and derailed Jan. 26 after a
southbound train struck Alvarez's Jeep Cherokee, which was parked on
the tracks in an apparent aborted suicide attempt, and careened into
a northbound train.
Having experienced hundreds of collisions on its tracks, an
accident of this type should have been foreseeable and Metrolink
should have taken measures that would have lessened the possibility
of derailment, Pfiester said.
"We are not the ones saying that Mr. Alvarez was solely
responsible for the crash," Metrolink spokeswoman Denise Tyrell said.
"And we are not the only ones that believe that his actions caused
Metrolink should have done, and should employ now, several safety
features on its trains, Pfiester said. The front train could have a
"cowcatcher," a plate at the front of a train that could push
obstructions out of the way, he said.
Pfiester also criticized Metrolink for the push/pull method of
moving trains, saying they should install and implement sections of
track where the passenger trains could turn around or use two
locomotives, one on each end of the train, or "dummy" cars filled
with heavy-weighted material that could withstand a crash with a
Metrolink continues to defend its system.
"We conduct our business by conferring with the leading experts in
the rail safety field, and by working closely with the federal agency
that regulates standards in our industry," Tyrell said. "Their
decisions and ours are based on science, not speculation."
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is also named in the
"We own some sections of the right of way, but Metrolink is
responsible for maintaining according to our agreement," said Marc
Littman, a spokesman with the MTA.
One of Pfiester's clients, the wife of Tom Ormiston, the Metrolink
conductor killed in the crash, announced she is beginning a petition
campaign that would urge the senior management of Metrolink to turn
For close to a decade, Ormiston warned his employers that pushing
the trains was unsafe, Ann Ormiston said.
"At least once a week he had nightmares about train wrecks," she
said. "He was very adamant that cab cars at the front were
* ROBERT CHACON may be reached at (818) 637-3239 or by e-mail at