Police: Engineer of train in California crash says he was blinded by sun and missed signal


Saturday, April 27th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


PLACENTIA, Calif. (AP) _ The engineer of a freight train that slammed head-on into a commuter train told investigators he didn't see a yellow light warning him to slow down because he was blinded by the sun, police said.

The collision between a 67-car Burlington Northern Santa Fe train and a Metrolink train Tuesday morning killed two people and injured more than 150.

The yellow signal meant engineer Darrell Wells should have reduced speed to 30 mph and prepared to stop. Federal investigators have said the train kept picking up speed and reached 48 mph.

Wells ``told me he could not see the signal ... that the sun was very bright,'' police Officer Kelly Kenehan wrote in his report.

Wells, 48, told Kenehan that after he was unable to make out the color of the signal, he reduced speed to about 40 mph until he could spot the next signal.

Then the engineer saw a Metrolink train on the same track and two red signal lights that meant he should stop.

``Wells knew he would not be able to stop in time and he and (conductor Dean E.) Tacoronte were going to collide with the Metrolink train,'' according to Kenehan's report.

Both crew members jumped from the train.

Metrolink engineer Michael Dudgeon said he was proceeding normally when ``I saw headlights and ditch lights and I then placed the train in emergency (stop) immediately without hesitation.''

Federal accident investigators have found no problems with the railroad signals, tracks or equipment.