Death Toll In Calif. Train Wreck Expected To Climb

Firefighters search for survivors in the wreckage of a train crash. i i

Firefighters search for survivors in the wreckage of a Metrolink commuter train that collided Friday head-on with a freight train, in Chatsworth, Calif., on Saturday. David McNew/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption David McNew/Getty Images
Firefighters search for survivors in the wreckage of a train crash.

Firefighters search for survivors in the wreckage of a Metrolink commuter train that collided Friday head-on with a freight train, in Chatsworth, Calif., on Saturday.

David McNew/Getty Images

At least 24 people were killed in a collision between a commuter train and a freight train in the Los Angeles suburb of Chatsworth on Friday — but that number is expected to grow.

More than 200 passengers were on the Metrolink train heading north from downtown Los Angeles on Friday afternoon when it rammed head-on into a Union Pacific freight train. Transit officials said Saturday that the commuter train engineer apparently failed to stop at a red light.

"Bam! And it's dead silence," said passenger Jeremy Schneider, describing the impact. "And then you look around and you can't believe what you see. My friend, she's leaned over just in agony, and I look around and everyone's on the ground. There are people hurt everywhere."

Schneider saw flames from a window and urged fellow passengers to move if they could.

"I started running back through the cars going, 'Get everybody out of this train. Move, you need to if you can get out of this train now!'" he said. "But a lot of people can't move."

More than 135 people were injured, 40 seriously enough to be flown to area hospitals.

On Saturday morning, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said the overturned train was a challenge to rescue efforts.

"What made this wreckage particularly unique was we were unable to get to the bodies," he said.

Families are being notified as victims are identified.

"We have been able to notify eight of the families of the deceased," said Ed Winter, assistant to the Los Angeles County Coroner. "We are continuing to attempt to identify and notify the rest of the family members, and we do have additional bodies that are in the wreckage."

The focus has now turned to removing the remaining bodies, Los Angeles County Deputy Fire Chief Mario Rueda said.

"We believe the likelihood of anyone being alive in the wreckage at this point is very remote, but we do continue to remove victims," he said. "And as you can imagine with the wreckage, it's been very, very difficult work."

Cadaver dogs have been brought in, Rueda said, and every conceivable empty space is being searched to look for possible survivors.

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