At least 17 people were killed and about 135 were injured yesterday after a freight train and commuter train collided head-on outside Los Angeles. The trains, which were headed in opposite directions on the same track, slammed together west of Los Angeles at about 4.30pm. Officials feared that more bodies could still be trapped under the twisted wreckage. Officials say there were 222 people on the Metrolink train and four Union Pacific employees aboard the freight train when they collided yesterday afternoon in Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley. The commuter train left downtown Los Angeles' Union Station at about 3.30pm. The cause of the collision had not been determined. It was not immediately clear why the two trains were on the same track.
Emergency crews worked desperately through last night and into the morning, searching for an unknown number of people still trapped. The death toll is expected to increase as fire crews dig deeper into the wreckage. Firemen put out a fire under part of the train and pulled people from the passenger car, which was rested on its side with the Metrolink engine embedded inside it. Two other Metrolink cars remained upright. Leslie Burnstein, one of the first to witness the crash, heard screams of agony as she ran through a smoky haze toward a wrecked train where dozens of bloodied passengers were still trapped inside. She pulled victims out one by one, some weeping as they looked about at the destruction. "It was horrendous," said Ms Burnstein, a psychologist who saw the train crash from her home. "Blood was everywhere. ... I heard people yelling, screaming in pain, begging for help." The engine of the Union Pacific freighter was left on its side, its nose against the Metrolink wreckage, with the rest of the freight train piled-up behind it. Douglas Barry, the fire chief, said heavy equipment was brought in to take apart cars, including one that some victims still trapped inside. "This is the worst accident I've ever seen," Antonio Villaraigosa, the Mayor said. "Clearly the injuries are going to mount and so are the fatalities." Dr Marc Eckstein, medical director for the city Fire Department, said 135 people were transported to hospitals - about 85 of them in serious or critical condition. In the initial hours after the disaster, firefighters treated the injured at three triage areas near the wreck, and helicopters flew in and out of a nearby landing area on medical evacuation flights. Rescuers worked atop the wreckage and through breaches in the passenger car to reach victims.
"I was riding, sitting down, minding my own business when all of a sudden, boom, people go flying all over the place," said Willie Castro, 67, a passenger. "Everyone started screaming. You could hear that everyone was in pain," he said on a newspaper website. Police trying to identify the dead, wounded and missing asked family members to come forward. A spokeswoman for Metrolink said the cause of the crash would be investigated. * National staff with agencies