Metrolink engineer texting on day of wreck

LOS ANGELES " Federal authorities investigating why a Metrolink train engineer ran through a red signal and into an oncoming freight train have confirmed that he was text messaging while working on the day of the fatal collision.

The revelation came a day before the California Public Utilities Commission was scheduled to vote Thursday on a proposed emergency order banning the use of cell phones while operating a train. Commission President Michael R. Peevey, who is seeking the order, said some railroads have such policies but they're widely ignored.

"Our order would make it the law and we'll go after violators," Peevey said earlier in the week.

Metrolink prohibits rail workers from using cell phones on the job, but there is no current federal or state regulation regarding the use of cell phones by railroad employees.

The National Transportation Safety Board requested the cell phone records of Metrolink engineer Robert Sanchez after two teenage train fans said they had exchanged text messages with him shortly before the train collided head-on Friday with a Union Pacific freight train in suburban Chatsworth. The wreck killed 25 people, including Sanchez, and injured more than 130.

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