LOS ANGELES – The brakeman on the freight train involved in a deadly collision with a commuter train filed a lawsuit Friday against the commuter railroad and the companies that provide its engineers.
The lawsuit, filed by Dominick Fravola and his wife, blames the defendants for not properly screening, supervising and training the Metrolink engineer who ran his commuter train past a red signal on Sept. 12 and collided with a Union Pacific freight train. Twenty-five people died in the crash, the nation's deadliest train accident since 1993.
"Basically the guy was asleep at the switch and not paying attention to what was going on around him," Fravola's attorney, Barry Novack, said of the Metrolink engineer, who was killed in the crash.
The lawsuit also names Veolia Transportation and its subsidiary, Connex Railroad, which employs the Metrolink engineers. It seeks an unspecified amount in damages, medical and psychological expenses and loss of income. Fravola's wife also seeks damages for loss of consortium.
The lawsuit alleges the defendants knew the tracks presented risks but "allowed a dangerous, defective and unsafe condition to exist." Novack said the red and yellow signals near the station were not positioned to allow engineers to see them, which led to the crash.
The trains collided at a curve in the track near where a tunnel separates the Chatsworth area of Los Angeles from Simi Valley and Moorpark in Ventura County. Federal investigators have said the engineers had only seconds to brake before the other train came into view.
Novack said his client, who was in the second engine, braced himself after the emergency brakes were applied but suffered a puncture wound, concussion and psychological trauma.
Investigators have said the Metrolink train did not apply its brakes and have confirmed its engineer was test messaging on duty that day — though it remains unclear whether that was a factor in the crash.
Novack said he also filed a claim against the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which owns the tracks, but that agency has not responded. He said Metrolink and Veolia denied the claim he filed against them, allowing him to file the lawsuit.
Metrolink spokesman Francisco Oaxaca and Veolia spokeswoman Ruth Otte declined to comment.