Audit: Metrolink Failed to Prevent Unsafe Behavior

NBC4 has uncovered disturbing new information about the safety of Southern California's Metrolink Trains. Investigative reporter Joel Grover has obtained government documents showing serious lapses in safety, even after the worst crash in Metrolink history, which happened a year ago in Chatsworth.

According to investigators, the engineer of that Metrolink train was text messaging at the time he missed a red light and crashed, killing 25 people.

Now, a government audit obtained by NBC4 says Metrolink failed to make sure other engineers weren't using their cell phones and missing red lights in the months after this horrible crash.

Among the victims of the crash was passenger Walt Fuller, the chief air traffic controller at Burbank's airport, who left behind his wife Jenny and three children.

"My husband Walt, their dad, was about public safety. As an air traffic manager at Burbank airport, his No. 1 priority was safety, and holding employees accountable for implementing the procedures that were supposed to be there," said Jenny Fuller.

Federal rules say cell phones must be turned off by employees on a moving train, and train operators are supposed to conduct random tests to make sure the rule is being followed.

But a government audit shows that in the months after the Chatsworth crash, Metrolink failed to conduct tests of employees to make sure they weren't using electronic devices on the job. The audit was conducted by the California Public Utilities Commission and the Federal Railroad Administration.

The audit also suggests safety records might have been falsified by some Metrolink managers. Government auditors found some managers created records of safety tests on trains that were not actually operating at the time.

Transportation experts say these safety lapses set the stage for future crashes. That's something that is unthinkable to the victims' families.

"This (crash) didn't need to happen. We didn't need to lose Walt and the other families didn't need to lose their family members. But certainly it needs to be prevented from happening again," said Jenny Fuller.

Metrolink tells NBC4 that because of the government audit, it's taking new steps to improve its safety program. Among steps being taken: cameras will be installed on trains to keep an eye on employee performance, and Metrolink plans to conduct more frequent random tests of employees to make sure they're not doing things like using their cell phones on the job and running red lights.

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