Light rail train hits bus in LA; 14 injured

September 19, 2008 1:11:06 PM PDT
An out-of-service bus driven by a mechanic turned abruptly into a light rail train near downtown during the morning rush Friday, injuring at least 14 people and rattling commuters a week after a deadly train crash in a suburb. The impact knocked the front car of the electric train off the track while on a run to Long Beach. The other cars remained on the track, which reopened about three hours after the crash.

"We had an out-of-service bus turn in front of the train," said Marc Littman, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Transit Authority, which operates both the train and the bus. "We don't know who had the right of way."

More than an hour after the accident, the smell of compressed natural gas leaking from the bus was still strong. The bus looked like it had been broadsided by the train, with a large dent on one side and a bend in the roof. The train showed much lighter damage.

At least 14 people on the Metro Blue Line train, including the operator, suffered minor injuries and were taken to a hospital, said another MTA spokesman, Luis Inzunza.

The crash comes just a week after a Metrolink commuter train smashed into a freight train in the San Fernando Valley, about 30 miles northwest of downtown, killing 25 people and injuring more than 130.

Chris Romero, 31, who lives near the Blue Line accident, said the screeching metal woke him up and he ran to the tracks. The crash, coupled with the Metrolink accident, has made him wary of taking the train.

"With everything that's going on, it's scary to go on the Metro," he said in Spanish through an interpreter.

The Metro Rail's Blue Line, which runs from downtown to Long Beach, started service in 1990 and is the oldest part of MTA's popular light rail system. Metro Rail service covers 73 miles of track and 62 stations, including street-level light rail, two subway lines and some elevated track. Estimated weekday ridership totals more than 300,000 boardings.

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