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Chapter #353: NTSB Final Report Omits Critical Data - February 13, 2017


The Los Angeles Times edition featuring the deadly Oxnard Metrolink Collision of February 24, 2015 - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)

NTSB Final Report on the 2015 Metrolink Oxnard Collision Omits Elements of "Probable Cause"

From the National Transportation Safety Board - Highway Accident Brief (Final Report), dated December 15, 2016:

“On Tuesday, February 24, 2015, in the predawn hours, Metrolink commuter train No. 102, operated by Amtrak, was en route from Oxnard, in Ventura County, California, to Los Angeles. As the train approached the South Rice Avenue grade crossing (near Oxnard) about 5:44 a.m., it collided with a 2005 Ford F450 service truck towing a two-axle utility trailer.”

The Metrolink cabcar in which Senior Engineer Glenn Steele and a student engineer were riding at the time of the deadly collision in February 2015 - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Probable Cause (According to the NTSB):

“The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the Oxnard, California, crash was the truck driver mistakenly turning onto the railroad right-of-way due to acute fatigue and unfamiliarity with the area.

The NTSB does not assign fault or blame for an accident or incident (probable cause only); rather, as specified by NTSB regulation, accident/incident investigations are fact-finding proceedings with no formal issues and no adverse parties… and are not conducted for the purpose of determining the rights or liabilities of any person.”


Having studied the Oxnard Metrolink collision of February 24, 2015 since its occurrence, I felt that the conclusions of NTSB Final Report omitted key facts. After analysis and reconstruction of the events leading up to the Metrolink Oxnard, my conclusions regarding the probable causes of the accident are as follows:

Memorial crosses attest to previous fatalities at the Fifth Street and Rice Avenue grade crossing where Metrolink Senior Engineer Glenn Steele lost his life - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)1. An inattentive and sleep-deprived utility truck driver turned his rig on to the tracks, leading to the collision.
2. An inattentive and sleep-deprived train crew failed to see or respond to lights on or near the tracks in sufficient time to stop the train.
3. Train Number 102 contained one older coach that did not incorporate current crash energy management (CEM) systems, leading to catastrophic failure of both its couplers.
4. The highway grade crossing had experienced twenty-one prior accidents, including one in which a driver had turned on to the tracks, resulting in a train collision.


Following is the official NTSB document list:

1. NTSB Launches Go-Team to Grade Crossing Accident in Oxnard, CA (February 24, 2015)
2. Preliminary Report Highway HWY15MH006, Executive Summary (March 19, 2015)
3. NTSB Opens Docket for 2015 Metrolink Accident (August 29, 2016)
4. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) “Final Report” on the 2015 Oxnard Metrolink Accident: Train and Truck Crash on Railroad Right-of-Way and Subsequent Fire (December 15, 2016)  PDF File


Beginning in April 2015, I published a series of blog articles that directly addressed or touched upon the February 24, 2015 Oxnard Metrolink collision. In chronological order, they are:

The poorly marked and poorly maintained grade crossing at Fifth Street and Rice Avenue where the fatal Metrolink collision occurred in February 2015 - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)1.  Metrolink Oxnard Train Collision Report - April 29, 2015
2.  Deadly Crude Oil Trains Coming Soon - April 30, 2015
3.  Metrolink Train Crash, A Personal Story - June 30, 2015
4.  5th & Rice - A Deadly Railroad Crossing - July 23, 2015
5.  The Glenn Steele Memorial Overpass - July 24, 2015
6.  Metrolink to Spend $338 Million - September 2, 2015
7.  Metrolink Anti-Derailment Blade Failure - September 6, 2015
8.  BNSF Locomotives on Metrolink Trains - October 1, 2015
9.  "Google Pop Car" - Rail Safety Plan - November 18, 2015
10. Ventura County Rail Deaths Scandal - December 4, 2015
11. Agencies Ignore Rail Safety Issues - March 16, 2016
12. Metrolink Ignores Mismatched Brakes - March 25, 2016
13. Ventura County, CA - Rail Safety 2016 - April 11, 2016
14. Ventura County - Deadly Rail Collision - May 2, 2016
15. It's Time to Audit Metrolink Operations - May 15, 2016
16. Metrolink - Meager Track Maintenance - July 6, 2016

The mechanical couplers on the old Bombardier coach (right) were a mismatch to the Rotem coach (left), resulting in complete failure of both Bombardier couplers in the February 2015 Oxnard Metrolink collision - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)To supplement the sixteen articles listed above, I also created a website at, www.5thandRice.com.. It compiles several of the articles listed above. The intent of the website is to highlight the dangers at the intersection and grade crossing at Fifth Street and Rice Avenue, Oxnard, California. That is where the deadly 2015 Metrolink collision took place.


How did I arrive at my own findings of probable cause?

First, I reviewed all official NTSB documents, including the 163 support documents released on August 29, 2016. Since the NTSB Final Report found that the utility truck driver embodied all probable causes of the Oxnard accident, I bypassed that evidence. Beyond the issues with the driver, Jose Sanchez Ramirez, I searched for other factors contributing to the actual collision.

My Final Report” uses the NTSB Final Report as its basis. First, I stripped out most of the information regarding the driver. Then, I filled in the blanks in the NTSB Final Report, inserting relevant text from other NTSB documents. My personal notes and comments are in red typeface. My intent was to create a narrative, using only public records as my source. In reorganizing the evidence, I begin with Precrash Events, and then move on to Crash and Postcrash Events. They are as follows:

As of December 2016, both the roadway and the markings at the Fifth Street and Rice Avenue grade crossing had deteriorated to a condition worse than when the Oxnard Metrolink collision occurred in February 2015 - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)1. Truck Driver Activities (abbreviated)
2. Train Crew Activities (including student engineer interview)
3. Video File (a second-by-second recreation of the collision)
4. Train Wreckage (including documentation regarding the mismatched train set)
5. Railroad and Roadway Infrastructure (including postcrash infrastructure deterioration since the 2015 collision)

Since “My Final Report” draws from resources with widely varying formats, please accept my apologies for any formatting issues. If you read the full narrative, it becomes obvious that probable cause includes more than a utility truck driver making a wrong turn in the darkness. In order to determine “probable cause”, we must evaluate other factors. In order to understand how and why this avoidable accident happened, we need to evaluate the utility truck driver, the train crew, the mismatched train set and existing conditions at the highway grade crossing.

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By James McGillis at 05:12 PM | Railroad Safety | Comments (0) | Link


Chapter #347: Metrolink - Meager Track Maintenance - July 6, 2016


Spokesmodel Carrie McCoy, on a hot day in June, at the Chatsworth Metrolink Station - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Inadequate Track Maintenance Puts Metrolink Passengers At Risk

On June 24, 2016, I drove to the Metrolink Station in Chatsworth, California. My mission was to drop Carrie McCoy off for her Metrolink ride from Chatsworth to Los Angeles Union Station.

Since early 2016, all of the Metrolink trains that I have observed at the Chatsworth Station have been “double-enders”. By that, I mean there is a locomotive at each and of the train. On this occasion, the train arrived in Chatsworth with a locomotive at the “head end” and a Hyundai-Rotem cabcar at the trailing end.



In late 2015,
as an interim safety measure, Metrolink instituted a second locomotive on each of its trains. The decision resulted from an equipment failure on a Hyundai-Rotem cabcar. In a February 2015 collision in Oxnard, California, the “pilot”, a debris-clearing blade at the front of a Metrolink cabcar, detached. As the pilot disappeared beneath the cabcar, it contributed to the derailment of the cabcar and several other Metrolink coaches. Because of that collision, thirty passengers were injured and Metrolink Senior Engineer Glenn Steele lost his life.

The locomotives that Metrolink leased to ride ahead of the Hyundai-Rotem cabcars are massive Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) freight locomotives.
This Hyundai-Rotem cabcar should not be leading a Metrolink train because of safety issues - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)
Such locomotives normally pull heavy freight trains on long hauls. Before the Metrolink lease, nowhere in the country have such locomotives pushed or pulled passenger trains. Because of their size, weight and other factors, Metrolink has struggled to safely deploy their BNSF locomotives. A recent Los Angeles Times report indicated that many trains were still running without a locomotive at each end.

The original locomotive lease from BNSF was for one year. Even at that, Metrolink now operates them on a Federal Railroad Administration temporary waiver, not a permanent operating permit. By leasing the BNSF locomotives, Metrolink made a de facto admission that heading up a train with a Hyundai Rotem cabcar was inherently unsafe. If so, why is Metrolink still running trains headed up by Hyundai-Rotem cabcars?

A broken or detached rail anchor lies near the Metrolink tracks at the Chatsworth Station - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)While at the Chatsworth Station, I walked the platform from south to north. When viewing railroad tracks up close, I like to observe the condition of the infrastructure. Are any of the railroad ties rotten? Are many of the spikes loose? Are palm trees growing up between the rails? At Chatsworth, I found instances of all these deficiencies. Why does any of this matter?

If the Philips 66 Santa Maria Refinery has its way, several oil trains each day could pass through the Chatsworth Station on their way to Santa Barbara County. From the June 3, 2016 oil train derailment and fire near Mosier, Oregon, we now know that failure of even one bolt or rail anchor can lead to a catastrophe.

As I reached the north end of the platform, I stepped up some wooden stairs to better observe the tracks. As I looked down from there, I could see the milepost marker for that location stenciled on the side of the rail. It read “MP 445.4”, with an arrow pointing down to that exact location. In non-technical language, that means that it is 445.4 miles to the northern terminus of the Coast Line in San Francisco. In addition, that spot is where the wheel truck of an outbound Metrolink locomotive comes to rest at the Chatsworth Station.

At Milepost 445.4, at the Metrolink Chatsworth Station a broken or detached rail anchor lies by the side of the tracks (http://jamesmcgillis.com)As I looked more closely, I observed a broken rail anchor lying by the tracks at that exact location. After the Mosier, Oregon derailment, Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) admitted that despite repeated visual inspections, specifically looking for deficiencies, inspectors missed badly corroded and rusted bolts. In the case of Chatsworth, the Southern California Regional Rail Authority (SCRRA), better known as Metrolink, owns and operates the double-track through Chatsworth Station.

Allowing rotten railroad ties, loose spikes and small palm trees to grow between the tracks at the Chatsworth Station is ample evidence that SCRRA is not properly inspecting or maintaining its own rail infrastructure. Allowing a broken or detached rail anchor to lie where a 432,000-pound BNSF locomotive comes to rest several times each day is inexcusable. Rather than relying on redundancy to save us all from its next derailment, SCRRA should inspect and repair its infrastructure in Chatsworth and throughout its railroad network.

Author’s Note: On July 8, 2016, just two days after the publication of this article, Metrolink announced the impending replacement of fifty-six failure-prone pilots on their Hyundai-Rotem cabcars. Although the recent lease of BNSF freight locomotives topped $20 million, Metrolink expects to replace the pilot blades for a mere $1.5 million. That would bring the cost of each replacement to $26,785. If the cost to replace the pilots is so low, why did Metrolink not explore that option from the outset?

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By James McGillis at 04:57 PM | Railroad Safety | Comments (1) | Link


Chapter #345: It's Time to Audit Metrolink Operations - May 15, 2016


Partially destroyed in the February 2015 Oxnard, California collision, Metrolink Cabcar No. 645 languishes on a spur in Moorpark - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)

As BNSF Freight Locomotives Fail The Test - It's Time to Audit Metrolink Operations

At 5:39 AM on February 24, 2015, Metrolink Train No. 102 departed the Oxnard Transit Center. Its intended destination was Los Angeles Union Station (LAUS). After negotiating a sweeping arc of track, the train crossed Rose Ave., at Milepost 405 of the Coast Line. Leading the way was Hyundai-Rotem Cabcar No. 645. After negotiating the initial curve, ten miles of straight track lay ahead. Under the control of a student engineer, the diesel pusher train quickly accelerated to seventy miles per hour.

The "pilot", a debris-clearing plow blade on Metrolink's Hyundai-Rotem cabcar No. 645 (similar to this one) detached and may have exacerbated the derailment of Train No. 102 in Oxnard, California - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)With Metrolink Sr. Engineer Glenn Steele occupying a jump seat behind the student engineer, it would be less than one minute before the cabcar reached Rice Ave. at Milepost 406.23. Unknown to the engineer and his student, an abandoned Ford F-450 work truck lay high-centered on the tracks eighty feet west of Rice Ave. In the early morning darkness, the headlights and emergency flashers of the disabled truck pointed toward the oncoming Metrolink train.

Until it was too late to avoid a collision, neither the student engineer nor Steele determined that the truck’s lights represented a hazard. While traveling at seventy miles per hour, and with less than three tenths of a mile to go, the student engineer saw the headlights looming before the cabcar. Sounding the horn and applying the brakes was insufficient to prevent a collision. On orders from Steele, the student applied emergency braking and both men bailed out, heading toward the rear of the cabcar.

With safety deficiencies noted by the NTSB, Metrolink has unsuccessfully attempted to place BNSF freight locomotives ahead of the cabcars on all its trains - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)With the brakes engaged, less than 1500 feet separated the cabcar and the work truck. As momentum carried the entire train forward, the impact with the truck was catastrophic. The pilot, a blade intended to clear debris from the tracks, detached from its support structure and disappeared beneath the cabcar. As the wreckage traveled along the tracks, the cabcar and its following coaches derailed and whipped in opposite directions. As the first two cars rotated and toppled on their sides, the whipsaw effect injured dozens of passengers and crew. One week later, Sr. Engineer Glenn Steele succumbed to his injuries.

In early reports, Metrolink touted the crash energy management (CEM) features of the Hyundai-Rotem cabcar. Without its safety features, a spokesperson said, the severity of the incident could have been greater. A preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) made such statements seem hasty and ill informed. By September 2015, the NTSB had determined that both the steel within the pilot and welds in its structural supports were deficient. Further, the entire assembly had ripped loose at stress levels below its design criteria.

Metrolink Chief Executive Art Leahy advocated for the unprecedented lease of forty BNSF freight locomotives to head-up all Metrolink trains returning to Los Angeles Union Station - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)After receiving an NTSB report regarding failure of the pilot assembly, Metrolink officials skirted discussions regarding any potential design flaw or culpability in the collision. Instead, Metrolink management initiated a conference call with its board members. During that call, the Metrolink Board approved a one-year lease of forty BNSF freight locomotives at a total of $20,000 per day. According to Metrolink Chief Executive Art Leahy, the forty freight locomotives would soon head up all Metrolink trains on their return trips to LAUS. Using the “rule of tonnage”, Metrolink management wanted to rule out the possibility of another deficient pilot or cabcar causing injury in a collision. Lost in the publicity regarding this supposed safety measure was the fact that no regional rail carrier in the nation had ever utilized freight locomotives to head up passenger trains.

BNSF freight locomotive No. 5629, a former coal train hauler rests on the tracks at Los Angeles Union Station in December 2015 - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Citing the unprecedented, yet unspecified safety issues involved with the Hyundai Rotem cabcars, the Southern California Regional Rail Authority (Metrolink) Board sidestepped the California Open Meeting Law. That ill-conceived and illegal action set Metrolink on a path to its potential demise. It also put the executive management team at Metrolink in a position to either defend their actions or place blame on its own board or others yet unnamed.

On December 5, 2015, I attended the “Steel Wheels Conference”, which is the annual meeting for the rail passenger association known as RailPAC. The meeting convened at the Metro Headquarters Building adjacent to LAUS. While on a lunch break, I discovered a long line of BNSF freight locomotives parked on LAUS Track Number 14. With no room to spare in its maintenance yards, Metrolink had redirected at least sixteen of the leased BNSF locomotives to the depot.

The author (James McGillis) discovers sixteen BNSF freight locomotives "hiding in plain sight" at Los Angeles Union Station in December 2015 - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)In "The Purloined Letter", a short story by American author Edgar Allan Poe, detectives assumed that a blackmailer would conceal a damning letter in an elaborate hiding place. Thus, he hid it in plain sight. In a flash of chutzpah and hubris, the Metrolink executive team decided to hide almost 7,000,000 lb. of BNSF freight locomotives at LAUS.

Soon after their irrevocable one-year lease at $500 per day each ($7,300,000 total), Metrolink discovered that heavy freight locomotives are more expensive to outfit and operate than they originally thought. Although the BNSF locomotives already featured positive train control (PTC), the software version on the BNSF equipment was two generations beyond what Metrolink was using (version 0 vs. 2.0). A new train management computer (TMC) and retrofitted software were required for each BNSF locomotive placed into service. By late December 2015, BNSF locomotives entered into limited service on Metrolink lines. Almost immediately, problems developed with their operation.

Stretching almost as far as the eye can see, Metrolink's leased BNSF freight locomotives take up one entire track at Los Angeles Union Station in December 2015 - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)With a gross weight of 420,000 lb., an overall length of seventy-four feet and a wheel diameter of forty-two inches, the huge locomotives had difficulty negotiating ten-degree radius curves such as the one approaching Chatsworth Station. As a result, the wheel-trucks on the BNSF locomotives create premature wear on the inside edge of the outboard rail. In a metallurgical process known as spalling, the BNSF wheels shave steel filings off the rails. The dispersion of filings into nearby electrical shunts often shorts out the signal systems along those tight curves.

Although the horns on the BNSF locomotives fall within legal standards, their blaring pitch can make them sound louder than a regular Metrolink horn. With their twelve drive-wheels and massive sixteen cylinder turbocharged diesel engines, the BNSF freight locomotives are louder and create more vibration than their passenger locomotive counterparts. In addition, regardless of their direction of travel, both the BNSF and the Metrolink locomotives generate power, noise and pollution whenever a Metrolink train moves. Despite Metrolink's claims of environmental sensitivity, a double-ender Metrolink train produces almost twice the engine noise and twice the pollution of a single-engine train.

Weighing in at 420,000 lb. each, the use of BNSF freight locomotives to protect deficient Metrolink cabcars from collision damage may be the greatest example of safety overkill in U.S. railroad history - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Because of the unprecedented use of freight locomotives in their train consists, Metrolink obtained only a six-month temporary waiver to utilize the BNSF equipment. A stipulation of the temporary waiver was that Metrolink would maintain compliance with all positive train control (PTC) regulations as specified by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). With a few of the BNSF locomotives entering service prior to January 1, 2016, their six-month temporary waiver shall soon expire. When the temporary waiver expires, will the FRA recertify the freight locomotives under rules for passenger use or will it require a full audit of their operations?

One requirement of PTC is that the speedometer on each locomotive shall be accurate at any speed above thirty miles per hour. With a freight locomotive geared for long hauls and a top speed of seventy miles per hour, the stipulated variance of five miles per hour (plus or minus) is difficult to achieve. For example, frequent starts, stops and delays for other rail traffic make the use of freight locomotives on the San Fernando Valley line problematic. Often operating at just above the thirty mile per hour threshold, a wide variety of speed sensors can cause the TMC to place the locomotive into “penalty mode”. Once it enters penalty mode, the TMC automatically applies the brakes and stops the train, no matter where it may be along the tracks.

The twelve forty-two-inch diameter drive-wheels on each BNSF freight locomotive deployed by Metrolink are creating excessive wear on the tight curves heading into Chatsworth Station and other locations - Click for detailed image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Before the penalized locomotive can resume service, pumps must refill the air reservoirs that supply breaking power to the train. A locomotive that experiences a penalty can stay in service for the balance of that day. However, a penalized locomotive may not reenter passenger service the following day unless Metrolink corrects the anomaly (inaccurate speedometer) and certifies completion of that work. According to the Los Angeles Times, Metrolink was able to average only twelve BNSF freight locomotives in service per day during April 2016. With so few BNSF locomotives in service, the majority of Metrolink trains returning to LAUS are headed-up by Hyundai-Rotem cabcars. This also begs the question; where are the remaining thirty-eight BNSF locomotives?

After the embarrassment of letting the batteries die on the sixteen BNSF locomotives parked at LAUS in late 2015, Metrolink crews jumpstarted those units and repositioned them to the Metrolink Keller Street Yard. To keep their electrical and motive power units in working condition, the non-operating BNSF locomotives remain in temporary storage at the Keller Street Yard. Placed in “automatic mode”, the engines cycle periodically, bringing them up to operating temperature and charging their batteries. Among other things, this periodic cycling of the engines produces wear on the starter motors, flywheels and the diesel engines themselves.

By the time Metrolink takes delivery of it first twenty-nine Tier 4 (low emission) locomotives, its remaining fleet of older diesel locomotives may well be headed for the scrap heap - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)In 2015, a Los Angeles Times article detailed Metrolink’s plans to purchase twenty-nine so-called Tier-4 locomotives. They were touted as state-of-the-art, low pollution passenger locomotives. According to the article, Metrolink intends to replace up to forty-nine of its aging and ill-maintained passenger locomotives over the next several years. Meanwhile, forty BNSF Tier-1 (high powered, high pollution) freight locomotives sit largely idle in the middle of Downtown Los Angeles. Hidden from public view, cycling their massive engines, these locomotives pump out untold amounts of air pollution into the Los Angeles Basin.

Metrolink’s temporary waiver to operate the BNSF freight locomotives will soon expire. When it does, it will be appropriate for the FRA, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) and the Southern California Regional Rail Authority (SCRRA) to conduct a complete audit of operations and practices at Metrolink.

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By James McGillis at 01:04 PM | Railroad Safety | Comments (0) | Link


Chapter #344: Ventura County - Deadly Rail Collision - May 2, 2016


A Harley Davidson Motorcycle stands after a collision with a Metrolink Train at Las Posas Road and Fifth St. in Oxnard, California in April 2016 - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)

Fifth Street at Las Posas Road Now the Deadliest Rail Crossing in Ventura County

April 21, 2016, the Fifth Street at Las Posas Road grade crossing in Camarillo, California regained the title of “Deadliest Rail Crossing in Ventura County”. Around 6 PM, Garrett Vongunten, 26, piloted his 2015 Harley Davidson motorcycle south on Las Posas Road toward Fifth Street. On the rear seat, Nadya Unger, 23, rode as his passenger. With the late afternoon sun in their eyes, they approached the railroad crossing at an undetermined speed.

All Metrolink trains originate at Los Angeles Union Station in Los Angeles, California - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)At 4:33 p.m. that day, Metrolink Train No. 117 had departed Los Angeles Union Station, heading toward its final destination at the East Ventura Station. Near 6:00 PM, the train approached Las Posas Road from the east at normal speed, which can be as high as seventy miles per hour.

If the traffic control system operated properly at the grade crossing, the approaching train would activate warning bells, flashing lights and crossing gates to warn vehicular traffic of an oncoming train. According to Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) guidelines, the rail crossing gates should be down at least twenty seconds prior to a train crossing Las Posas Road.

For reasons that included impairment from unspecified drugs and possible excessive speed, Vongunten may have seen the warning lights and gates too The April 22, 2016 Ventura County Star newspaper chronicled a fatal  motorcycle/train collision at Fifth St. and Las Posas Rd. one day earlier - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)late to stop safely. As a result, Vongunten’s motorcycle broke through the crossing gate arm and struck the side of the Metrolink train. Passenger Nadya Unger died at the scene and Vongunten sustained critical injuries, including partial loss of one leg. The motorcycle, missing its operator, its passenger and its front wheel, came to rest upright, facing in the opposite direction of original travel. "You could assume that the motorcycle wasn't in the middle of the track per se because of the location that it ended up," California Highway Patrol officer Gregory Bowcock told the Ventura County Star newspaper.

With the collision unseen by the Metrolink engineer, Train No. 117 proceeded to the Oxnard Transit Center, which was its next scheduled stop. Prior to arrival in Oxnard, a passenger who had witnessed the collision notified the train’s conductor of the event. Metrolink held the train in Oxnard until officials could inspect it for signs of damage. A preliminary report indicated that there was evidence of a side impact, including motorcycle parts embedded into a
coach and blood on the side of that coach.
Amtrak trains (pictured), Metrolink trains and Union Pacific freight trains have all been involved in fatal collisions at Fifth St. and Las Posas Rd. in Camarillo, California - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)
In recent years, there have been multiple train collisions on the Oxnard Plain. In February 2015, a train collision at the Fifth St. and Rice Ave. grade crossing in Oxnard took the life of Metrolink Senior Engineer Glenn Steele. By that time, Fifth & Rice had gained notoriety as the “deadliest rail crossing in Ventura County”. In recognition of the many deaths and injuries at Fifth & Rice, Congresswoman Julia Brownley (D-Westlake Village) secured $1.5 million in federal funds for the design of a grade separation at that location.

With the recent death of Nadya Unger, the Las Posas Road and Fifth Street grade crossing now takes the mantel as “deadliest rail crossing in Ventura County”. Here is a chronology of four prior rail collisions at Fifth & Las Posas:

A Metrolink locomotive similar to this one led the train that took the life of Nadya Unger at the Fifth St. and Las Posas Rd. grade crossing in Camarillo, California in April 2016 - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)- At 10:49 AM on December 30, 2013, as an Amtrak train passed by, a car entered the grade crossing at Fifth St. and Las Posas Rd. The driver of the vehicle died at the scene and a nearby railroad service worker received injuries resulting from the accident.

- At 10:30 AM on January 24, 2014, crews responded to a train collision at Fifth St. and Las Posas Rd. A seventy-seven year old woman who drove her minivan into the side of a passing Amtrak train succumbed to her injuries at the scene.

- At 8:25 AM on April 23, 2015, a Union Pacific freight train collided with an SUV at the intersection of Fifth St. and Las Posas Rd. The driver, a fifty-seven year old man, drove through the crossing gate arm and into the side of the freight train. The driver succumbed to his injuries at the scene.

Las Posas Road, southbound runs from left to right in this image, crossing Fifth St. in Camarillo, California in this image - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)
- At 10:30 AM on November 21, 2015, a twenty-three year old man drove his drove his car through the crossing gate and into the side of a moving Amtrak train at Fifth St. and Las Posas Rd. At the time of the collision, the crossing gate arm was down and the safety lights were flashing. The driver died days later at a local medical center.

In less than three years, there have been five fatal train collisions at Fifth & Las Posas. The common denominator of all five collisions was that the crossing gates were down, warning lights were flashing and bells were ringing. Even so, each ill-fated vehicle entered the railroad right of way and collided with a moving train. There is no evidence that any one of the five most recent fatal accidents at Fifth & Las Posas was a suicide.

Poorly marked after a 2014 repaving, the Las Posas Rd. southbound approach to the Union Pacific Pacific Coast Line at Fifth St. in Camarillo, California offers little warning of its train crossing - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Unlike the Fifth & Rice grade crossing, the Fifth & Las Posas grade crossing has only the minimal safety features mandated by law. At the tracks, Rice Ave. is a divided road, with overhead safety lights, signage, and four crossing gates intended to seal the rail corridor from errant vehicles. At the tracks, Las Posas Rd. is undivided, with no overhead safety signage and only two crossing gates. Even if the gates were down, a driver could cross over the double-yellow lines and drive around the crossing gates. To the unsuspecting driver, the Las Posas Rd. southbound approach to Fifth St. looks like a little-used rural grade crossing.

On Friday April 22, 2016, one day after the death of Nadya Unger and the critical injury Garrett Vongunten, the Ventura County Transportation The Ventura County Transportation Commission (VCTC) has proposed a half-cent sales tax to fund transportation improvement projects within the county - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Commission (VCTC) voted to support a half-cent transportation sales tax for Ventura County. Nineteen of the fifty-eight counties in California have such a tax, including all the major counties in Southern California. If it makes the November 2016 ballot, the measure will still require approval by a two-thirds majority of county voters. If it passes that hurdle, the new sales tax will provide $70 million annually, earmarked for transportation improvement projects within Ventura County.

Five fatal train collisions at Fifth St. and Las Posas Rd. should be enough to place that grade crossing at the top of Ventura County transportation improvement projects. Suggested improvements include realigning Las Posas Rd. to make it a divided road as it crosses the tracks, installing overhead warning signs and creating a four-gate system of vehicle barriers. Although foot traffic is light at that location, the new safety plan should include sidewalks and pedestrian gates there, as well.

A quad-gate system, overhead safety signage and a divided-road grade crossing such as this one are needed at Fifth St.and Las Posas Road in Camarillo, California - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Proposed upgrades to the rail crossing will not stop speeders from trying to beat a train to the crossing nor end inattentive driving, but they will increase the chances that motorists will receive warning in time to stop safely at Fifth & Las Posas for an oncoming train. I hope that public officials throughout Ventura County support a half-cent sales tax dedicated solely to transportation improvement projects.

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By James McGillis at 02:01 PM | Railroad Safety | Comments (0) | Link

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Crescent Junction, Utah - New History
NTSB Final Report Omits Critical Data
Winter Camping in the Mojave Desert
2017 - Burbank Rose Parade Float
Sarah Thomas - World Record Swim
A Family Visit to Kaua'i, Hawaii in 1988
2016 - Cow Springs, AZ Trading Post
Metrolink - Meager Track Maintenance
'16 Beverly Hills Concours d'Elegance
It's Time to Audit Metrolink Operations
Ventura County - Deadly Rail Collision
Ventura County, CA - Rail Safety 2016
Metrolink Ignores Mismatched Brakes
Agencies Ignore Rail Safety Issues
Nevada - Vote Now to Bring Back Solar
Ventura County Rail Deaths Scandal
"Google Pop Car" - Rail Safety Plan
BNSF Locomotives on Metrolink Trains
2015 - Time to Phase Out Lake Powell
Navajo Power Plant Heat Island Effect
Of Mudflats and Methane Volcanoes
Metrolink Anti-Derailment Blade Failure
Metrolink to Spend $338 Million
The Glenn Steele Memorial Overpass
5th & Rice - A Deadly Railroad Crossing
The One, the Only - Plush Kokopelli
Metrolink Train Crash, A Personal Story
Moab, Utah - Lions Club Park - Part 2
Moab, Utah - Lions Club Park - Part 1
Deadly Crude Oil Trains Coming Soon
Metrolink Oxnard Train Collision Report
2015 Rare California Rain Barrels Help
So. California Lakes Soon to Disappear
C.Proietto - Cattolica, Cafe Eden Roco
Hollywood: "Violence is the New Sex"
2014 Spanish Valley Vineyards
Durango & Silverton Railroad Story
Is it Too Late to Save Moab, Utah?
BLM & SITLA - URLEA Subterfuge
Moab Pile to be "Moab Pit" - 2029
Moab in Springtime - May 2014
Old Mesquite, NV - Gone For Good
I-15 North - Mojave Desert Tour
Grand Co. Plans to Desecrate Site
Moab - County Plans Fail the Test
2014 - Quantum Leap in ATM Theft
Moab Kiley - Peaceful BLM Protest
Stop The BLM-SITLA Land Swap
Utah Recreational Land Exchange
Burro Cranes - A Complete History
Moab Burro at Seven Mile Canyon
Brightsource Solar's Flawed Design
Trend - Horsepower Mitigation Fees
Moab Rim Campark Sold in 2014
Durango, CO - Engine #478 - 1965
Durango, CO - Engine #476 - 1965
Red Lake Trading Post, Tonalea, AZ
Deconstruction at Cow Springs, AZ
Cow Springs, Navajo Art - 2013
Navajo/Hopi, New Energy Dilemma
Peabody Coal Stripmine Disappears
An Arizona River Dies in the Desert
Black Mesa Coal - Water & Power
2013 - The Great Western Drought
Homolovi State Park, AZ - No Ruins
C.Proietto Paints at Lago Maggiore
American Bison Herd Threatened
I-40, Twin Arrows - Both Old & New
Interstate I-40 E. Highway Robbery
Simi Valley Brush Fire - Air Power
I-40: Highway Tax Dollars At Work
Kristi Frazier - World Citizen Award
Sierra Nevada, CA - 2013 Drought
Desolation Canyon Wilderness Area
The Holbrook Basin Potash Project
Moab - Revisit Seven Mile Canyon
Moab - Greater Canyonlands N.M.
Thomas Kinkade - Yosemite Valley
C.Proietto Paints Lugano, Gandria
Paso Robles, CA - Wine Adventure
Colorado River Dine & Unwind Moab
Kodiak 100 --> Moab Charter Flight
The True Cost of Mineral Extraction
Moab Truck - 1950 Chevy 3100
Disappearance --> Reemergence
Edward Abbey - His Spirit Returns
Edward Abbey - Monkey Wrenching
Edward Abbey - Lake Powell 1965
Edward Abbey - Desert Solitaire 65
A New Message From AAMikael
C.Proietto Paints Bad Kreuznach
New Jersey - The New Atlantis?
Moab - A Rare Beech B-45 (T-34A)
Howell Mountain, CA - Winemaking
Oakville, CA - Robt. Mondavi Wines
Crescent Junction, UT - in 1955
Craig Childs - Apocalyptic Planet
Mammoth Lakes, CA - 1st. Snowfall
Mesquite, NV - A Disappearing Act
The Mystery of Hovenweep Road
Moab Airport - Canyonlands Field
Moab, UT - Save Ken's Lake Puddle
Jeeps & Downtown Abbey in Moab
Moab Valley vs. Spanish Valley, UT
Moab, Utah - Go Behind the Rocks
Moab Adventure Xstream Race '12
Face on Mars - Is it John Lennon?
C.Proietto - Paints The Dolomites
Moab Tower - The Wireless Story
Brendel, Utah - A History Mystery
C.Proietto - New Mystery Painting
Tsunami Risks Up in Crescent Bays
"Moab Native" Potash Comments
C.Proietto - And The Glory of Rome
L.A. to Australia, by 34-ft. Sailboat
Interstate I-70 East through Utah
Mesquite, NV - Opportunity Lost?
Las Vegas, NV "Drive-by" - I-15N
Ivanpah Valley, CA - Mega-Solar
Pearblossom Hwy. - Palmdale Road
C.Proietto - Venice Sunset, Sunrise
24-Hours of Moab 2012 to Happen
C.Proietto - A Portrait of the Artist
AOL & Yahoo Mail Getting Hacked
ATM Retail Technology - New & Old
C.Proietto - Solving An Art Mystery
Mulholland Drive, Los Angeles, CA
Hollywood - To The Sign & Beyond
Hollywood - Legendary Paul Pink's
Kokopelli Credit Union - New ATM
#1 Google Ranking & How to Get It
C.Proietto - Two New Oil Paintings
LACoFD Truck 8 at Hollywood Bowl
I-405 Golden Crane Air Hazard
Beware: Hoax/Scam Phishing Sites
A Quantum Leap in Super PAC $$$
I-405 Mulholland Bridge Update
Moab Skydiving Video - May 2011
Tonopah Desert, AZ Thunderstorm
Anticline Overlook - Ancient Spirit
ATM Bank Robbery Now Easier Still
Ronald Reagan Presidential Library
Chaco Canyon - Kin Klizhin Sunset
Chaco Canyon - Kin Klizhin Ruin
Chaco Canyon, Spirit of Lizard Man
Chaco Canyon, NM - Campground
White Mesa, Utah - Uranium Mill
Hidden Costs in Biofuels Revealed
Arches National Park Threatened
Moab Rail - The U. P. Potash Local
Toxic Purple Dust Covers Moab, UT
U.S. Highway 191 in Moab, Utah
Kindle Fire Tablet vs. Nook Tablet
Ken's Lake 2011 Update, Moab, UT
24-Minutes of Moab Kids Bike Race
24-Hrs. of Moab, The Final Sunset?
24-Hours of Moab 2011 Race Start
24-Hrs. of Moab Race Live Webcam
The Long Run - Eagles Tribute Band
Petrified Forest, Going, Going, Gone
Nuclear Dust Storm Hits Moab, UT
Moab Rainbow - August 1, 2011
C.Proietto - The Man From Amalfi
I-405 UCLA Rampage - 11/22/66
Moab Rim RV Campark - 2011
C.Proietto Paints the Amalfi Coast
C.Proietto - Modern Impressionist
I-405 Mulholland Drive Bridge
Moab Pile - Countdown to Disaster
Wigwam Village - Holbrook, AZ
New Live Webcam from Moab, UT
Kathy Hemenway - World Citizen
Desert View Mobil - Needles, CA
Mojave Desert Transit in May 2011
Colorado River Basin At Risk - Ch.4
Holbrook, AZ Water Crisis - Ch. 3
Holbrook Basin, AZ Potash - Ch. 2
Little Colorado River Basin - Ch. 1
Port Orford, Oregon - Tsunami
Hope for Atlantis - Chapter 4
Future of Atlantis - Chapter 3
The New Atlantis - Chapter 2
Atlantis, Myth or Fact? - Chapter 1
Kevin Rutherford - Freightliner RV
WindSong - Ericson 35 Sailboat
Moab Pile - The Mill Tailings Train
Moab Pile - Here Comes the Flood
24-Hours of Moab 2010 - The Race
24-Hours of Moab 2010 - The Start
24-Hours of Moab 2010 - Pre-Race
Moab, Utah - Winter Snowstorms
Happy New Decade - 2011
Save Ken's Lake, Moab, Utah 2010
UPS Air - Moab, Utah Style
Crescent Junction & Brendel, Utah
Green River to Floy, Utah - Video
Moab Ranch - The Movie & Webcam
An Oregon Cascades Range Sunset
The Port at Port Orford, Oregon
Simi Valley, CA Two Live Webcams
Two New MoabLive.com Webcams
Ave. of the Giants, Humboldt, CA
Port Orford, OR - Of Bears & Deer
Goodbye Arizona - We'll Miss You.
Port Orford, OR - Home For Sale
Sun, Moon and the Chakras of Gaia
2010 Super Bowl Advertising
Navajo National Monument Sunset
California Redwoods Elk Herd
A New Decade - The 2010's Begin
Moab - Could Floods Happen Here?
Spanish Valley, UT - Wine & Water
24 Hours of Moab Race - 2009
CA - Rainforest or Dustbowl?
Edward Abbey House, Moab, UT
Kayenta, AZ to Blanding, Utah
U.S. Highway 89 N. to Navajoland
Quartzsite - Black Canyon City, AZ
Simi Valley, CA to Quartzsite, AZ
Phoenix, Moab, The Grand Canyon
Colorado River - A New Challenge
Moab, Utah - The Shafer Trail
2009 - Moab Live Webcam Update
Moab, Utah - Potash Road, Part 2
Moab, Utah - Potash Road, Part 1
SITLA Deal Threatens Uintah Basin
Wildfire Near La Sal Mountains, UT
Moab Ranch - Plasma Flow Event
Mill Creek Canyon Hike - Part Two
Mill Creek Canyon Hike - Part One
Memorial Day 2009, Burbank, CA
A Happy Ending for the Moab Pile?
The Old Spanish Trail - New Again
Mesquite, Nevada - Boom or Bust
Larry L. Maxam - An American Hero
Winter Camping in the Desert 2009
Theory of Everything - Part Four
Theory of Everything - Part Three
Theory of Everything - Part Two
Theory of Everything - Part One
Canyonlands Field, Moab, Utah
Access New Energy Now - 2008
The Four Corners States - Part 5
The Four Corners States - Part 4
The Four Corners States - Part 3
The Four Corners States - Part 2
The Four Corners States - Part 1
Moab Wine - Streaming Webcam
Elton John T-shirt, Now Available
Arches National Park Threatened
BC Buckaroos Are Heading South
San Francisco, A New Energy City?
Seven Mile Canyon, Craig Childs
Matheson Wetlands Fire, Moab, UT
24-Hours of Moab Bike Race Finish
24-Hours at Moab Bike Race, Start
It is Time to Follow Your Passion
New York - The New Atlantis
Translate to Any Language Now
Marina del Rey, Summer Weekend
Seattle Shines in the Summertime
Oregon Battles With Itself - 2008
The Motor Yacht, Princess Mariana
Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park
The Mojave National Preserve, CA
Navajo National Monument, AZ
La Sal Mountains Loop Road, UT
Meet Krista and Mrs. Tipperwillow
The Moab Rim, Above and Below
Colorado Riverway Recreation, UT
Hovenweep - Twin Towers Standing
Aztec, New Mexico - Ancient Ruins
Kin Klizhin Ruin at Chaco Canyon
The Spirit of Pueblo Bonito, NM
Chaco Canyon, NM Sand and Rain
Homolovi Ruins State Park, AZ
Quartzsite-Salome-Wickenburg
ATM Bank Robbery Made Easy
Outstanding World Citizens, Fiji
Planning an Archetype Party
Sir Elton John - The Lost Concert
Start Writing Your Own Blog
My Unification Theory - 2008
Frito-Lay Beach-Trash Explosion
The Great Attractor, Revealed
Vibrational Thought & String Theory
The Long Run - Eagles Tribute Band
2006 Midterm Elections, Revisited
The Lost Mural of Denis O'Connor
Fiji Islands Paradise 2001 -Part 10
Fiji Islands Paradise 2001 - Part 9
Fiji Islands Paradise 2001 - Part 8
Fiji Islands Paradise 2001 - Part 7
Fiji Islands Paradise 2001 - Part 6
Fiji Islands Paradise 2001 - Part 5
Fiji Islands Paradise 2001 - Part 4
Fiji Islands Paradise 2001 - Part 3
Fiji Islands Paradise 2001 - Part 2
Fiji Islands Paradise 2001 - Part 1
MedIT Search Website, New eBook
Save Natewa Bay, Fiji Islands
The Fiji Islands - Paradise Lost?
Face on Mars - Is it John Carter?
How Water Helped Make The West
Yahoo! - Fighting Its Last Battle?
Helium Gas, Neither Earth nor Mars
Megatrend vs. Meganiche - 2007
German Hydrogen Bomb Ready
Passing The $100,000 Bill
Google Wins - Microsoft Withdraws
A.Word.A.Day, You Ought to Know
San Fernando Valley Winemaking
WindSong - The Book - Updated
Divine Inspiration, Or Nearly So
Going Down to the Depot
Japanese Win The "Space Race"
2007 eCommerce - Made Easy
Discovering The Great Reflector
Navajo National Monument, Arizona
Moab, Utah Memories - 2007
Fall Color, Silverton, Colorado
Autumn Equinox in the Rockies
Hasta la Vista, Taos, New Mexico
Megatrends 2010 - The Book
The Quantum Leap, New Mexico
Chaco Canyon Memories 2007
Flame-Out in Phoenix, Arizona
Annals of Homeland Security '07
Quartzsite, AZ - RV Camping
WindSong eBook - Now Ready
The Quantum Leap Celebration
Welcome to my new weblog 2007!

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