Metrolink: Commuter train engineer failed to stop

AP Photo/ Hector MataFirefighters continue to work on the wreckage of a Metrolink commuter train, Saturday, Sept. 13, 2008 in Chatsworth, Calif. Emergency crews found more victims early Saturday in the mangled wreckage of a commuter train that smashed head-on into a freight train, raising the death toll to 24 in the deadliest U.S. passenger train accident in 15 years.

AP Photo/ Hector MataFirefighters continue to work on the wreckage of a Metrolink commuter train, Saturday, Sept. 13, 2008 in Chatsworth, Calif. Emergency crews found more victims early Saturday in the mangled wreckage of a commuter train that smashed head-on into a freight train, raising the death toll to 24 in the deadliest U.S. passenger train accident in 15 years.

LOS ANGELES " The death toll in the collision of a Metrolink train and a freight train reached 24 Saturday and was expected to rise, officials said, as the commuter passenger service announced that a preliminary investigation determined that its own engineer failed to stop at a red light.

More bodies remained in the wreckage of a Metrolink passenger car but it was difficult to determine how many, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa told a press conference.

"It's like peeling an onion," he said of efforts to get through the wreckage.

A preliminary investigation found "it was a Metrolink engineer that failed to stop at a red signal and that was the probable cause of the accident," Metrolink spokeswoman Denise Tyrrell said.

Tyrrell said the engineer worked for a subcontractor, Veolia, and had driven Metrolink trains since 1996. She said she believes the engineer, whose name was not released, was killed.

The death toll made it the deadliest U.S. passenger rail accident in 15 years.

A total of 135 people were injured, with 81 transported to hospitals in serious or critical condition. There was no overall condition update available Saturday, but a telephone survey of five hospitals found nine of 34 patients still critical. Many were described as having crush injuries.

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