SIMI VALLEY — Randall Washington didn't want to lose his souped-up Ford Bronco.
So what if the sports utility vehicle was stuck on some railroad tracks, and a 6,000-foot, 3,000-ton freight train was barreling its way?
A Simi Valley police officer had tried numerous times to get the 32-year-old man to abandon the gleaming white Bronco--covered with chrome detailing and custom parts--but Washington refused again and again, desperately trying to roll the vehicle free. Finally, just moments before Washington would have been slammed by the Union Pacific train late Wednesday, he leaped to safety.
Lucky for him.
The train hit the Bronco at about 40 mph, hurling it into the air so that it landed 100 feet away, Det. Jay Carrott said. The Bronco's engine caught fire and was quickly extinguished, he said. No salvageable parts of the vehicle remained.
No one was injured in the crash.
Washington was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving and was being held at Ventura County Jail on Thursday. A Breathalyzer test showed that Washington's blood-alcohol level was above the legal limit of 0.08, Carrott said. Bail was set at $1,500.
Attempts to reach Washington at the jail were denied.
"He is a very nice man," Carrott said, "who just made a stupid mistake. He cared enough to ask if anyone in the train was injured. He kept saying, 'Was anyone hurt?' "
Washington has no previous criminal record, according to police.
Carrott found him while on a routine check of local bars. The detective heard the vehicle's engine whining and wheels whirring in the gravel in futile efforts to get off the tracks. Washington had decided to go off-roading in a dirt lot next to the tracks, which run behind Snooky's bar in the 2000 block of Donville Avenue.
"He put a lot of money into that [Bronco]," Carrott said. "He was determined to get it off."
Investigators remained at the scene for an hour and a half, making sure no damage had occurred to the train or tracks and that no one aboard was injured, Carrott said. The train conductor told police that the only damage to the train was a slightly bent ladder. The tracks were reopened.