An unidentified pedestrian skirted a railroad barrier in Pacoima despite warning bells and flashing red lights Monday and was killed by a speeding Metrolink train--the third fatality since the commuter rail service began two months ago.
The man, who witnesses said was carrying a beer bottle, was killed instantly in the accident near San Fernando Road and Van Nuys Boulevard about 6:10 a.m. Witnesses told investigators that the man walked around the lowered crossing gate and straight into the path of a train traveling 78 m.p.h.
"He ignored all the signals and never even looked toward the train," Los Angeles Police Officer Charlton Jackson said.
Nevertheless, Jackson said, it did not appear that the man was trying to commit suicide, as was the case last Thursday when a man jumped in front of a Metrolink train in Simi Valley and was killed. "This guy was in another world," Jackson said, noting that two witnesses saw the man carrying a beer bottle before the accident.
"It doesn't appear that it was a real thought-out effort to commit suicide."
An autopsy will be conducted to determine whether alcohol or drugs played a role in the accident, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County coroner's office said.
There were no injuries to the 23 passengers and two crew members aboard the train, which was headed south toward downtown Los Angeles from Santa Clarita, Metrolink spokesman Peter Hidalgo said. Buses took the passengers to stops farther down the line, in Burbank, Glendale and downtown Los Angeles, and the three-car train was allowed to continue about an hour after the accident.
No other trains were delayed, Hidalgo said.
The accident is under investigation by local and federal officials, but Jackson said it appears that the dead man was solely responsible. National Transportation Safety Board investigators could not be reached for comment.
According to Jackson, the man was walking west along Van Nuys Boulevard with his head down in the early morning darkness. The red warning lights and bells at the crossing were operating at the time of the accident and the gates were lowered, Hidalgo and Jackson said.
The man had slipped around the crossing arm and was walking onto the tracks when the engineer saw him in the train's powerful headlights several hundred feet ahead. The engineer sounded the horn several times and applied the brakes, but could not stop the train in time, Hidalgo said.
"There is no way the individual could not have seen us coming," Hidalgo said.
The train struck the man's head as he stepped into its path and the impact threw his body clear, Hidalgo and Jackson said. The train was brought to a stop about a quarter of a mile away.
Monday's death was the third involving a Metrolink train since the commuter rail service began in October, carrying passengers from three outlying cities--Moorpark, Santa Clarita and Pomona--to Union Station in downtown Los Angeles.
Last Thursday, Kurt Anderson, 34, of Simi Valley threw himself in front of a train on the Moorpark line near Los Angeles Avenue and Erringer Street in Simi Valley, Simi Valley police said. The accident snarled north-south holiday rail traffic for several hours.
And in late November, dump truck driver Jaime Farias, 37, of Los Angeles was killed and 12 rail passengers suffered minor injuries when a train on the Santa Clarita line slammed into his dump truck at an unguarded crossing about a mile from the site of Monday's accident.
The accident prompted Metrolink officials to close the crossing and consider eliminating six other unguarded crossings in Los Angeles County.