CNN BREAKING NEWS
Commuter Train Derailment in Burbank, California
Aired January 6, 2003 - 13:33 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: You can see some pretty courageous and brave men coming to the rescue here, trying to get those stranded passengers out of this Metrolink train that you can see here live pictures via KTTV, a CNN affiliate there in Los Angeles. This is Burbank, California, where the train crashed -- a vehicle crashed into this train, causing two of the cars to overturn. Right now, police and fire crews trying to get passengers out of that train, treating the injured there at the scene.
Our Charles Feldman also there to bring us up to day on what he knows -- Charles.
CHARLES FELDMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I probably got a much better view through the aerials and the helicopters than we have at ground level. The police, in fact, are moving reporters and camera crews pretty far back from the scene, because they say they want to clear a path for ambulances.
I did see a number of the passengers from the Metrolink train go by on stretchers. They were talking, but they did look dazed and injured. But again, hard to tell for somebody who's not a medical person, and I'm certainly not that, what the extent of their injuries are.
There's a lot, as you can see, I'm sure, from the video and from the aerials, a lot of police and ambulances and fire trucks here. There is no fire here at the moment. But they say still trying to get people, I believe, out of at least one of the two cars, and it's unclear how many more, if any, might still be on the train. There's a news conference, I believe, going on just about now, and we hope to have some more up to the minute information shortly for you.
PHILLIPS: All right, our Charles Feldman on the scene there in Burbank, California. Thank you so much, Charles. We'll check in with you,, especially after that news conference that's going to be held there.
If you're just tuning in, these pictures coming to us from KTTV in Los Angeles. One person confirmed dead and 20 others injured as this Metrolink commuter train slammed into a vehicle at a railroad crossing about 9:30 Southern California time. We're told that it was the occupant of the vehicle that was killed.
Now we're getting fresh pictures in, via KABC, that's the CNN affiliate in Los Angeles, obviously, everybody covering this story. This is actually pictures of the vehicle that crashed into that train. The individual that was driving this vehicle, we are told, is the confirmed fatality. A number of other people injured. We're told about 20 people now being treated after this vehicle crashed into the Metrolink train.
Now we're going to go to the phones again, David Laurell, the mayor of Burbank on the line with us.
Sir, can you update us on what happened this morning?
MYR. DAVID LAURELL, BURBANK, CALIFORNIA: Kyra, you know as much, if not more, at this moment than I do. Obviously about -- probably about 40 minutes ago now, the Metrolink train did collide with a vehicle up on the northern park in the city of Burbank, on Buena Vista.
From what I am hearing from the scene, I have spoken with one city official who is on the scene right now, and as you are reporting, there is, unfortunately, one confirmed casualty. I have not heard anything other than what it is that you're reporting, that there are 20 people in varying stages of injury.
PHILLIPS: So, can you tell us about, first of all, this is a very popular way to get to and from work, is that correct?
LAURELL: That is very correct.
PHILLIPS: And this intersection, what can you tell us about this intersection and where the streets are in comparison to the railroad? I mean, is this a type of thing where they -- maybe the vehicle didn't see a warning, or is it pretty obvious to see trains coming? Can you kind of give us a feel for that specific area?
LAURELL: Well, this area is adjacent to an industrial area. During a rush hour, this would be a fairly heavily traveled and congested area of the city of Burbank. Obviously, in a situation like this, there's no bright spots, but if in fact there was one bright spot to be found, it was that this accident has occurred after the major rush hour had subsided for the day, otherwise there may have been far more people on board that train and also involved in that intersection area right there.
But it is a very highly traveled intersection, and from what I understand, the gates had been down when this accident did occur.
PHILLIPS: And tell us, is this -- are there a lot of homes nearby this area, because we were noticing a lot of people stopping and coming to the rescue and trying to pull passengers out of this train? I mean, you saw a lot of signs of heroism as this was going down.
LAURELL: Right, and that's what I imagine would be the case wherever this happened. I think that there are always good samaritans or passersbyers who are willing to get involved, and what a wonderful thing that is. To answer your question, no, this is not necessarily near a residential area. There are some homes within very sharp proximity to this location. Burbank is a relatively small city. So you can get anywhere in the city rapidly. PHILLIPS: So in this intersection where it happened, major, is it the typical railroad type of warning, where the bars come down and you see flashing lights and you hear some sounds? What type of setup is at this intersection to warn cars that a train is coming through?
LAURELL: That would be correct. It would be the standard type of rail crossing that you would see anywhere across the United States.
PHILLIPS: And do we know if indeed that railroad crossing was working?
LAURELL: To the best of my knowledge, what I have been told as of this time, that is the case. Again, you know, in all fairness to me, situations here are rapidly changing here, so for me to tell you one thing or another specifically would be conjecture on my part.
PHILLIPS: Understandably. Mayor David Laurell of Burbank, thank you, sir, for your time.
LAURELL: Thank you, Kyra.
PHILLIPS: You're watching various live pictures and stringer video actually right now of this train derailment that took place in Burbank, California, 9:30 Southern California time, 12:30 Eastern Time. One person confirmed dead and 20 others we are told injured as police and firefighters continue to treat the injured.
You're taking a look now at the actual train line. This is the route that it was taking. It's the Antelope Valley Line that connects to -- comes out of Lancaster, Santa Clarita, connects down to Los Angeles at Union Station. It also connects with Burbank and Glendale. This derailing happened in Burbank.
On the phone with us right now a representative from Metrolink, Francisco Oaxaca.
We appreciate you coming on with us. Can you tell us anything to add to what happened this morning?
FRANCISCO OAXACA, METROLINK COMMUNICATIONS: No. I was only able to overhear -- and thank you for having me, Kyra. I was able to overhear part of the conversation you had with the mayor of Burbank, but he did describe some of the details accurately. This train did depart the Santa Clarita area about quarter of 9:00, Los Angeles time this morning. Santa Clarita is approximately 35 miles north of downtown Los Angeles, and this incident occurred at about 9:30 this morning. We understand that the train did strike a vehicle, which was on the track at the crossing at Buena Vista street.
As the mayor described, this is a fairly busy crossing. By about 9:30 in the morning, a lot of the rush hour traffic has subsided. It's in more of an industrial-type area. We understand that this was a truck vehicle of some sort. It's been reported to have been a stake bed truck. We don't know if it was carrying a load of some sort or not.
The collision did result in three of the four cars on the train derailing. One of them is actually on its side on the ground.
This particular train, since it is roughly at the tail end of our rush hour period, is fairly lightly used compared to other trains. Many of our trains carry several hundred people a day on their regular schedule. This train averaged about 90 passengers during the month of December.
And it had not completed its run until Los Angeles. So an estimate of about 50 passengers on board at the time of the incident is probably pretty close to accurate.
At this point we have a report of one fatality, which we understand was the individual operating the vehicle that was struck by the train. We have a number of individuals on board our train who have been injured and been transported to local hospitals. I don't have any exact information about the extent of their injuries at this point.
Right now, as it may be obvious to those of you watching any of the visual images coming on television, the line is closed. There are two lines, two tracks, excuse me, which operate through that area. And if anyone's been able to see any of the images of the railroad crossing, you'll see two tracks going through there, along with two sets of gates. There are also bells and flashing lights that are operating at the time a train approaches. And as far as we understand, All of the warning devices were functioning as they're supposed to as the train approached.
PHILLIPS: Francisco, could you, as you've updated us here on the stories, you can imagine there's a lot of people tuning in, maybe someone that might have known someone, a passenger on board. Where can they call to find out the status of possibly a relative or friend that might have been on board?
OAXACA: Well, one thing we are doing right now is undertaking a survey of who was on board the train, getting names and phone numbers of those who are able to communicate with us. That is not complete yet. But we would encourage anyone who would like additional information about passengers on board the train to communicate with Metrolink. They can call our 800 toll-free information number which is 800-371-LINK -- 800-371-5465.
Our passengers do not register with a passenger manifest or carry a personalized ticket, like the commercial airlines do, so we do have to take a survey, basically, of those that were on board the train when incidents of this typo occur. Bust as soon as we compile that information, we'll have it available later on this afternoon, I imagine.
PHILLIPS: Can you tell us about this area where the collision actually happened? I have here it was Lincoln Street and San Fernando Boulevard. First of all, is that the right area?
OAXACA: The report I have is Buena Vista street, which is in the same general area. That is the actual crossing where the street crosses the railroad tracks. PHILLIPS: And do you know if the railroad crossing mechanisms were working? Were the bars down, the lights flashing? Did this vehicle have proper warning?
OAXACA: Well, as far as the understanding, they were. There is a procedure by which we actually download the information, which is stored digitally on the exact operation of all the crossing warning devices, and that is being undertaken right now, and as soon as that information is downloaded, we could completely confirm that. But at this point, preliminary reports are that all the warning devices were operating as they should have been.
PHILLIPS: All right, Francisco Oaxaca, spokesperson for Metrolink, we sure appreciate your time, sir. We'll continue to check in with you for more information.
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