A train engineer who was hospitalized after a Southern California commuter train derailed when it slammed into a truck on the tracks has died in the hospital, police said Tuesday.
The death of train engineer Glenn William Steele, 62, marks the first fatality in the Feb. 24 crash in which a Metrolink train struck a Ford F-450 truck, towing a trailer, on the Ventura County Line tracks and derailed, injuring 28.
"We are deeply saddened by the news," Oxnard Police Cmdr. Marty Meyer said in a statement. "And, we are concerned for those still recovering from this collision and their families."
The Metrolink train bound for Los Angeles struck the heavy duty pickup truck and trailer as it straddled the tracks. Three of the train's five cars toppled over.
Metrolink said in a statement that Steele, who was an employee of Amtrak, worked in the rail industry for over 40 years and was the longest tenured engineer among Metrolink operators.
"The entire Metrolink family is deeply saddened by the loss of this dedicated and hardworking railroader," said Sam Joumblat, Metrolink's interim CEO. "Everyone associated with Metrolink extends our most heartfelt condolences to his family, friends and co-workers. Our thoughts and prayers are with them all."
The driver who abandoned the pickup truck before it was hit by the train, 54-year-old Jose Alejandro Sanchez-Ramirez, will not face charges in the crash at this time, according to the Ventura County District Attorney's office.
Sanchez-Ramirez's attorney Ron Bamieh issued a statement after Steele's death.
"I called Alejandro this morning to tell him of the death of Mr. Steele. I spoke to Alejandro through his son. Alejandro was shaken, and immediately expressed his condolences for the family of Mr. Steele, and wanted to know how best to express his deep sadness to Mr. Steele's family," Bamieh said in a statement.
"Today I join Alejandro in expressing that our prayers and thoughts are with the family of Mr. Steel. It is our hope that this will be the last loss of the life the City of Oxnard will allow at this intersection," the statement read. "It's unfortunate that it took this accident to bring attention to this dangerous condition that has existed for far too long."
Bamieh said last week that Sanchez-Ramirez accidentally drove onto the tracks and made the situation worse by continuing forward in an attempt to gather enough momentum to get the wide pickup over the rails. He also used his high-beam headlights in an effort to warn the oncoming Metrolink train.
Sanchez-Ramirez could not back up because his truck was towing a trailer, Bamieh said. When his efforts to move the truck failed, he ran for help, Bamieh said.
But federal investigators who arrived in Oxnard last week said the truck was not stuck on the tracks in the sense that it had bottomed out at the crossing. Investigators have not ruled out that the truck was somehow stranded and will attempt to determine why it traveled 80 feet down the tracks and remained there with its parking brake engaged.
A commuter train's onboard camera captured the fiery crash and might help investigators with effort to piece together the events that led to the derailment.
The video, taken from the outward-facing camera on the front car of the Metrolink train, was sent back to the Washington home of the National Transportation Safety Board for analysis, board member Robert Sumwalt said.
Editor's Note: Police identified the engineer as Glen Steele. The LA County Coroner's Office and DMV said the correct spelling is Glenn Steele.