Crisis plan prompts quick response

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Office of Emergency Services credits its crisis plan for a successful response to a fatal commuter train crash.

The recent Metrolink train wreck in Southern California—the worst U.S. rail crash in 15 years—was an exercise in emergency deployment, after a commuter train crashed into a freight train, killing 25 passengers and injuring nearly 140.

As the news broke late Sept. 12, there were already multiple deaths confirmed, and many people who survived were trapped inside twisted train cars. State agencies from Metrolink to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office mobilized, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Office of Emergency Services grappled with its top question: Is it terrorism?

“It was one of the first things we tried to dispel or confirm through our connections with law enforcement, the FBI and federal agencies,” said Kelly Huston, the OES deputy director of communications. Since 9/11, Huston said, it’s not uncommon for the public to suspect terrorism first.

In this case, the investigating agencies were quick to discover it was error, not attack, that caused a Metrolink train collided with another in Chatsworth, Calif. Metrolink officials said the engineer who perished in the crash ran a red light.

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