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Metrolink unveils plaque honoring train crash victims

The bronze plaque is revealed at Union Station in downtown L.A. days before the first anniversary of the deadly Chatsworth collision. The deceased, their loved ones and rescuers are commemorated.

September 09, 2009|Ruben Vives

Officials unveiled a commemorative plaque Tuesday in downtown Los Angeles dedicated to those who lost their lives in Metrolink train accidents.

Metrolink board Chairman Keith Millhouse said the plaque also honors those affected by train fatalities, including friends, loved ones and first responders.

A large group of law enforcement and Metrolink officials, along with Red Cross workers and commuters, gathered in the east portal of Union Station as Millhouse removed a black cloth to reveal the large bronze plaque depicting a track nearing a tree-lined bend. Beneath the picture it reads:

Unfinished Journeys

In memory of those who have died / With empathy for those affected / In gratitude to those who responded and rescued

The unveiling came as the first anniversary of the Sept. 12 Metrolink crash in Chatsworth nears. Twenty-five people died and 135 were injured when a Metrolink train collided head-on with a Union Pacific freight train.

In January 2005, 11 passengers died and more than 180 were injured when a Metrolink train derailed near Glendale after slamming into a sport utility vehicle that had been left on the tracks.

The driver of the SUV, Juan Manuel Alvarez, who was trying to commit suicide but changed his mind at the last minute, was convicted of murder and sentenced last year to 11 consecutive life terms.

At Union Station, as onlookers applauded and commuters dashed onto the Red Line subway, 58-year-old Norman Nicholson, an Amtrak bus coordinator, gazed at the plaque.

"I'm hoping good things can come out of this . . . and that the deaths and injuries of those [from the crash] aren't going to be in vain," he said.

Nicholson said he was a passenger in the Chatsworth crash but walked away with minor injuries. He had just awakened from a nap in the upstairs rear cabin when he was suddenly hurled from his seat.

"It all happened with a blink of an eye," Nicholson said.

A woman's crushed face, a man's exposed leg bone and people bloodied and crying were some of the scenes Nicholson said he witnessed.

"It was carnage," Nicholson said, adding that he completed months of counseling last week.

His wife, Bobbe, 58, also is an Amtrak employee and Metrolink crash survivor. She was sitting in the rear cabin during the 2005 train wreck and suffered minor injuries.

"She was fortunate too," he said.

Nicholson said he hopes Metrolink officials will continue to improve train safety for passengers.

"So that I don't have to ever carry another man with a broken leg off the train," he said.

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ruben.vives@latimes.com

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