California engineer derails train over suspicion about coronavirus aid ship USNS Mercy, feds say

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A train engineer intentionally drove a locomotive full speed ahead off the end of rail tracks near the USNS Mercy, which was docked at the Los Angeles Port.

Federal prosecutors charged Eduardo Moreno, 44, with train-wrecking, after allegedly admitting in two separate police interviews that he intentionally crashed the train because he was suspicious of the Navy hospital ship in the dock.

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"Moreno stated that he thought that the U.S.N.S. Mercy was suspicious and did not believe ‘the ship is what they say it’s for,’” according to the criminal affidavit.

Moreno expressed concerns to authorities that the ship had an alternate purpose than to assist with COVID-19 and was potentially linked to a government takeover and he derailed the train to "wake people up."

“You only get this chance once. The whole world is watching. I had to," Moreno told investigators, according to the complaint. "People don’t know what’s going on here. Now they will.”

A California Highway Patrol officer who witnessed the crash said he saw “the train smash into a concrete barrier at the end of the track, smash into a steel barrier, smash into a chain-link fence, slide through a parking lot, slide across another lot filled with gravel, and smash into a second chain-link fence.”

Video footage recorded from the locomotive’s cab and reviewed by the Los Angeles Port Police shows the train clearly moving at a high rate of speed before crashing through various barriers and coming into close proximity to three occupied vehicles, according to a press release from the Department of Justice. A second video shows Moreno in the cab holding a lighted flare.

Moreno stated that he acted alone and had not pre-planned the attempted attack.

The engineer wasn’t a port employee but apparently was working for Pacific Harbor Line Inc., a train company that handles cargo in the port and connects to major railroad lines, Phillip Sanfield, spokesman for the Port of Los Angeles told The Associated Press.

The train stopped more than 250 yards short of the U.S. Navy Hospital Ship Mercy, which arrived in port this week to provide a thousand hospital beds to regional medical centers expecting a surge of COVID-19 patients.

Nobody was hurt. However, the crash caused the train to leak fuel oil, which required clean up by fire and other hazardous materials personnel.

Moreno was arrested by the patrol officer who witnessed the crash. The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force and the Port of Los Angeles Police are now leading the investigation.

If convicted, Moreno could face up to 20 years in federal prison.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.