LA Metrolink train engineer dies of injuries suffered in crash with truck

LA Metrolink train engineer dies of injuries suffered in crash with truck

The Metrolink track at the intersection of Rice Avenue and 5th Street in Oxnard was operational Feb. 25.

The engineer gravely injured in last week's Metrolink crash in Oxnard dies
The engineer who died as a result of last week's Metrolink crash in Oxnard had 42 years of experience
One week after being gravely injured in a collision between a Metrolink train and a pickup truck in Oxnard, the train's engineer has died.

Glenn Steele, 62, died early Tuesday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles of injuries suffered in the Feb. 24 crash, said Ed Winter, spokesman for the Los Angeles County coroner’s office.

"The entire Metrolink family is deeply saddened by the loss of this dedicated and hardworking railroader," said Sam Joumblat, Metrolink's interim chief executive officer. "Everyone associated with Metrolink extends our most heartfelt condolences to his family, friends and coworkers. Our thoughts and prayers are with them all."

The five-car Metrolink train was bound for downtown Los Angeles when it derailed at 5:42 a.m. Feb. 24. Initially there were no fatalities, but 28 of the 50 people involved were taken to hospitals with minor to critical injuries.

The impact of the crash sent the truck across the grade crossing, pushing it a total of about 300 feet.

The train was traveling at 56 mph when the engineer saw the truck on the tracks at 5th Street and Rice Avenue, authorities said. Seconds before colliding with the truck, he pulled the emergency brake.

Steele, of Homeland in Riverside County, had 42 years of experience and was ranked No. 1 on the Metrolink seniority list, said Robert Sumwalt, a National Transportation Safety Board member. He was an employee of Amtrak.

Spending on rail crossing safety upgrades varies widely across Southland
Last week, Ventura County Dist. Atty. Gregory Totten announced that no charges would be filed against the driver of the truck, Jose Sanchez-Ramirez, 54, at least until an investigation was completed. He added that prosecutors could still file charges in the future.

On Tuesday, prosecutor Scott Hendrickson said Totten would not comment on the case and the latest development because it was still under investigation by the Oxnard Police Department.

Prosecutors were also waiting for the NTSB to conclude its investigation before deciding whether to file charges, said Oxnard police spokesman Miguel Lopez.

Multiple agencies were working on the investigation, he said.

“I think everyone is going to proceed with the utmost caution,” Lopez said.

Sanchez-Ramirez’s attorney Ron Bamieh said his client was “upset” and “shaken” over Steele’s death. He said he and Sanchez-Ramirez expressed their condolences and said, “Our prayers and thoughts are with the family of Mr. Steele.”

“It is our hope that this will be the last loss of life the city of Oxnard will allow at this intersection," Bamieh said. “It’s unfortunate that it took this accident to bring attention to this dangerous condition that has existed for far too long.”

The derailment occurred after Sanchez-Ramirez, who was hauling a trailer with a Ford F-450 pickup, mistakenly turned onto the tracks and became stuck, Bamieh said. Sanchez-Ramirez, of Yuma, Ariz., was in the area for work and thought he was turning onto 5th Street, the attorney said.

Sanchez-Ramirez was arrested on suspicion of felony hit-and-run involving multiple injuries after police said they found him walking and apparently disoriented more than a mile from the scene of the derailment. He was released after prosecutors declined to file charges pending the conclusion of investigations.

A 31-year-old student engineer was operating the train at the time of the crash, federal investigators said. Both the student engineer and Steele were inside the control cab as the train went down the track.

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