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2 killed by Metrolink train were sleeping on the tracks, authorities believe

A survivor who was clipped by the train tells of the trio's activities the night before the accident Thursday morning in Mission Viejo.

September 10, 2010|By Christopher Goffard and Rong-Gong Lin II, Los Angeles Times
  • The Metrolink train that struck three people Thursday morning, killing two of them, sits miles up the track from the accident site at Alicia Parkway in Mission Viejo.
The Metrolink train that struck three people Thursday morning, killing… (Don Kelsen / Los Angeles…)

As investigators struggled through the day to make sense of the carnage on the railroad tracks in Mission Viejo, they considered the possibilities: a group of friends recovering from a night of heavy drinking, teenagers from a nearby park with a reputation as a midnight party spot, a suicide pact.

But in the end, Orange County Sheriff's Department investigators said it appears a young man and teenage girl simply fell asleep on the tracks early Thursday before a Los Angeles-bound Metrolink train killed them, scattering body parts for hundreds of feet.

A 27-year-old Santa Ana woman who survived the crash told authorities that the two victims — identified as Daniel Akins, 22, of Mission Viejo, and Anastasia Bolton, 17, of Del Mar, Calif. — met her Wednesday night at the bar Proof in Santa Ana, according to sheriff's spokesman Jim Amormino.

The woman said they drove to Laguna Beach in the man's Mitsubishi Eclipse, where they walked on the sand, and then drove to Mission Viejo in hopes of sleeping at a friend's home, according to Amormino.

When the friend could not be found, the trio decided to sleep in the car outside a Baja Fresh restaurant in a shopping plaza at Alicia Parkway and Via Fabricante.

About 4 or 4:30 a.m., the woman told investigators, the three walked down a nearby embankment leading to the train tracks.

The tracks pass through a secluded concrete-lined trench under Alicia Parkway. She said she fell asleep near the tracks, with the others nearby, and was awakened by the sound of an oncoming train.

As she tried to scramble out of the way, Metrolink train 603, heading north from Oceanside to Los Angeles, clipped her arm and leg, the Sheriff's Department said.

She climbed the embankment and returned to the shopping plaza to call 911 from her cellphone at 6:15 a.m. She said she had been hit by a train but did not know what had happened to her two companions.

When deputies arrived, they found the victims' remains, which Amormino said had been carried 300 to 400 feet.

The survivor was treated for injuries, and Amormino said both a firefighter and a deputy reported that she did not appear to be under the influence of alcohol.

Amormino said the trio merely met at the Santa Ana bar and that there is no evidence they had been drinking there. Nor was there evidence, he said, that they'd been drinking at the tracks. Until toxicology tests are complete, it will remain unclear whether they had been drinking or taking drugs.

"It's definitely not a suicide pact," Amormino said. "We believe they may have been sitting around talking and just fell asleep. It is bizarre."

He added: "I'll be the first to admit, sometimes young people do strange things, maybe not thinking a train runs through here. I don't know what they were thinking."

The survivor said she met Bolton on Facebook about a week ago but was not able to provide the girl's full name. The name of the survivor was not released.

Keith Ball, who lives near the crash scene, said it was common for young people to congregate at night near the tracks.

"Kids are always drinking and partying down there. It's been a problem," he said.

Ball said he heard young people partying earlier Thursday morning and is aware of a park near the tracks frequented by teenagers.

"Partying and train tracks — probably not a good idea," Ball said.

A Times database shows there were no accidents or near-collisions on that section of the track from 1993, when the Metrolink commuter train system began running, to September 2008.

christopher.goffard@latimes.com

ron.lin@latimes.com

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