As mentioned earlier, it’s been an incredibly busy week for me and while I’ve been generally keeping note of further developments in the story I haven’t had the time to really comment much. Today’s revelation, however, deserves notice:
A Metrolink engineer sent a text message from his cellphone 22 seconds before he collided with an oncoming freight train in an accident that killed 25 people and injured 135 others last month, federal authorities said today.
Engineer Robert M. Sanchez sent the message at approximately 4:22 p.m., just before his Metrolink 111 train slammed into the Union Pacific freight train on Sept. 12 in Chatsworth, the National Transportation Safety Board said in a written statement. He also received a message about a minute earlier, the agency said.
The safety board today cautioned that its disclosures were preliminary.
“The precise timing and correlation of these events is still underway,” the NTSB said. Two key questions were whether Sanchez had left the station when he sent his last text message and how close he was to the point of impact with the Union Pacific train.
It’s extremely disheartening to read this, to be blunt. As noted, there’s still questions, so while the impulse to completely damn Sanchez is incredibly understandable, more must still be considered. However, I feel disheartened not out of a sense that Sanchez is being inaccurately blamed — while his union and his family are understandably arguing against this, frankly I think the circumstantial evidence is growing far stronger, not weaker — but because Sanchez would have done something like this so often in the first place, as the story notes.
More to say about this later, perhaps.