Driver “Did Best He Could” to Free Truck in Train Derailment: Lawyer

A train derailed about 5:45 a.m. Tuesday in Oxnard, sending more than two dozen people to hospitals.

The lawyer for the truck driver arrested in the Southern California commuter train crash said his client "did the best he could" to free his truck from the tracks and run for help in the moments before the train barreled into it and derailed injuring 28 people.

Attorney Ron Bamieh said his client, Jose Alejandro Sanchez-Ramirez, made a wrong turn onto railroad tracks in farmland in Ventura County and got stuck.

"Unfortunately, Mr. Sanchez misperceived the railroad tracks to be the road," Bamieh said during a Wednesday news conference. "The (truck) became entangled on those tracks. He tried his best to get it off the tracks. Unfortunately, he was unable to do that."

Sanchez-Ramirez, 54, of Yuma, Arizona, is in jail on charges of felony hit-and-run in connection with the pre-dawn collision Tuesday in Oxnard, about 65 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles.

Oxnard Assistant Police Chief Jason Benites said Tuesday that Sanchez-Ramirez abandoned the commercial truck and was found about 1 1/2 miles away in apparent distress.

Ventura County prosecutors were reviewing the case to determine whether to file charges.

Bamieh said it was an unfortunate accident, that the intersection in question has been long known as a problem and that city officials had been raising money to build a bridge to prevent crashes there.

He said his client, whose Ford F-450 pickup with trailer carrying mechanical equipment for harvest machinery, was driving Tuesday morning to familiarize himself with his work route, a day before he was set to do a job in Oxnard.

He had driven from Yuma on Monday and arrived in Southern California that night, the lawyer said.

As he was stuck on the tracks, he hit his high beams to warn the oncoming train. He tried to push his two-ton truck off the tracks but couldn't. He ran away to save his own life, his attorney said.

"His first reaction was to find help on foot," Bamieh said. "He did the best he could and that's all he could do."

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