Truck Driver Had Been Awake For 24 Hours Before Deadly 2015 Metrolink Derailment

Federal investigators say the truck driver involved in the collision is to blame for the derailment of a Metrolink train in 2015 that killed one person. According to the National Transportation Safety Board report, the driver had gone without enough rest for a 24-hour period before inadvertently driving onto the tracks near Oxnard.

On February 24, 2015, just before 6 a.m., Jose Ramirez-Sanchez drove his pickup truck and trailer onto the tracks near a crossing at S. Rice Avenue and E. 5th Street. Ramirez-Sanchez drove his truck about 80 feet down the tracks before it got stuck, where it was struck by a eastbound Metrolink train on its way to Los Angeles. All four coach cars derailed, and three of them flipped over. Of the 51 passengers on board, 32 sustained injuries and the engineer died seven days later. Ramirez-Sanchez fled from his truck and sustained injuries unrelated to the crash itself. He was later detained a few miles away from the scene.

Ramirez-Sanchez told Oxnard police that he mistakenly turned right onto the tracks when he saw the light turn green at the intersection, intending to go down E. 5th Street. Instead, the street was 57 feet further ahead. The NTSB report determined that the driver had been on the road for almost 17 hours at that point, and been on duty for almost 24 hours. "Sleep deprivation and lack of adequate sleep have been shown to result in decreases in alertness, lapses in attention, driver error, and increased crash risk," said the report.

Ramirez-Sanchez was 350 miles from his home in Yuma, Arizona and on duty with an Arizona-based agricultural firm at the time. Because of his unfamiliarity with the area he was using a navigation app. However, the app provided no detailed information on the crossing at the time of the crash. As a result of this crash, the NTSB has recommended that navigation apps like Google Maps, Apple Maps, Garmin, etc. provide more information on railroad crossings. According to the New York Times, this is the first time the NTSB has "target navigation apps as a factor in a major accident."

The New York Times also reports that Google, Apple and other developers had subsequently agreed to add more information on railroad crossings, but none had done so yet.

According to the L.A. Times, a Metrolink internal investigation also determined that the deflectors (a component designed to keep debris from getting under the train's wheels) were faulty and broke off during the crash. >According to the L.A. Times, a Metrolink internal investigation also determined that the deflectors (a component designed to keep debris from getting under the train's wheels) were faulty and broke off during the crash. It is now subject to a lawsuit from passengers injured during the crash. Hyundai Rotem Co., the company that makes the deflectors, is now subject to a lawsuit from passengers injured during the crash.