Chatsworth Metrolink Crash Five Years Later

Five years ago today, a Metrolink commuter train smashed into a Union Pacific freight train in Chatsworth, California, killing 25 people and injuring 135 others. The crash was the deadliest in Metrolink's history, and the worst U.S. train crash since the 1993 Big Bayou Canot crash in Alabama. In the aftermath of the Metrolink crash, investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) placed blame on the Metrolink train engineer, saying he was distracted prior to the accident by sending and receiving text messages while on active duty. He proceeded through a red light, putting the commuter train on a collision course with an oncoming freight train.

Photo from The Los Angeles Times
A solemn ceremony took place today, with victims of the crash and their families gathering at the Moorpark rail station to witness the unveiling of a memorial dedicated to those that were killed or injured in the tragedy. The bronze plaque mounted in stone reads: "Metrolink 111, September 12, 2008, In memory of those who left us. In honor of those who survived." The ceremony was organized by Barbara Kloster, whose son suffered severe injuries in the crash. "This is to show the victims that they will not be forgotten," said Kloster at the ceremony. "The crash might be old news, but not to those who still live it every day."

Kloster's statement rings true for many survivors of the September 12, 2008 crash. Many of those injured in the crash suffer from debilitating, life-altering injuries that continue to plague them to this day. It is for this reason that a group of victims have been working to modify the $200 million federal liability cap on damages allowed to the victims of train crashes. The victims feel that this amount is not enough to compensate those that lost loved ones, or those that continue to need expensive medical treatment. 

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) attended the memorial. Feinstein and other lawmakers were quick to react to the tragedy in 2008, working to get Positive Train Control (PTC) installed on America's railways. Many safety advocates feel that if PTC had been installed on the Metrolink 111 train five years ago, the crash would never have happened. At this time, Metrolink is ahead of schedule and hopes to fully implement PTC by next year. Other railways have not worked so quickly, estimating that it will still be a few more years in some cases before PTC is implemented. 

The memorial is a nice way to honor the victims of the crash, but these people deserve more for having their lives turned upside down. The victims need to be cared for so that those who lost loved ones aren't at a financial disadvantage, and so those that sustained serious injuries can actually afford their medical bills. It is shameful to think that some of these people will be financially strapped due to a federal cap on damages from a crash that was easily avoidable. If asked, these people would probably also say that implementing PTC nationwide, so that these types of disasters never happen again, would be a better way to honor them and the memory of those that lost their lives.