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METROLINK COLLISION: PORTRAITS OF LOSS / HOWARD POMPEL

'A loving individual'

September 15, 2008|Ann M. Simmons

On any other day, Howard Pompel wouldn't have been on the Metrolink train that collided head-on with a Union Pacific freight train Friday. But he left his job at the Los Angeles City Employees Club an hour early that day, his widow said.

At 4:18 p.m., as Pompel rode the ill-fated train en route to his home in Moorpark, he got a cellphone call from family friend Paul Szymborski. Szymborski said he asked Pompel if their plans to shoot pool together that evening were still on.

"He said, 'I'm on the train. I'll see you in 30 minutes,' " Szymborski recalled Saturday.

Less than 10 minutes later, the two trains collided and Pompel, 69, perished.

If only her husband had not left work early, "he wouldn't be dead now," his widow, Beckie Pompel, 63, an insurance agent, said in an interview.

She said another family member called to tell her about the accident and she learned her husband had died at the scene.

She said Saturday that she was unclear about the nature of Pompel's injuries and didn't know where he had been seated on the train, which he rode every day to and from his job in downtown Los Angeles.

"He was a loving individual, a loving husband, a loving grandfather," she said of her husband of 12 years. "He played Scrabble. We loved live theater and eating out."

Annette Conway, Pompel's 37-year-old daughter, said her father was "happy, joyful, outgoing, friendly, generous."

"He wore his heart on his sleeve. He loved to make people laugh."

-- Ann Simmons

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