Locomotive Union: Put More Train Pros Onboard

The cheapest and fastest way to prevent another train collision like the Sept. 12 Metrolink accident that killed 25 near
Chatsworth would be to put another railroad professional in the locomotive, union officials told accident investigators Wednesday.

"There are occasions where something's going to happen," William Walpert of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen told an investigative board in Washington, D.C. "A second set of eyes, in our opinion, would go a long way in preventing accidents."

Since the accident, which has been blamed largely on the Metrolink engineer, railroad safety experts have discussed various kinds of collision-avoidance technology, putting video cameras on the engineer, and stricter regulations for employees.
National Transportation Safety Board investigators, meeting for a second day in Washington, D.C., have already determined that the Metrolink engineer ran a red light just before the commuter train collided head-on with a Union Pacific freighter at nearly 40 mph. In addition to the deaths, at least 130 people were injured.

Both the Metrolink engineer and the UP conductor had been sending a flurry of text messages.
The Metrolink engineer's final message -- sent within a minute of the collision -- was to one of a group of young rail enthusiasts whom he had befriended. At least one teenager had been allowed to ride in the locomotive and briefly "drive" the train, according to NTSB testimony.

The Metrolink engineer, Robert Sanchez, who died in the crash, twice had been warned about the unauthorized, on-duty use of his cellular telephone.  
The Union Pacific conductor, who was in the locomotive with an engineer and was not operating the train, sent a test message just a little more than a minute before impact. His blood and urine also tested positive for marijuana use, according to NTSB investigators.

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