L.A. train crash linked to Oak Brook company

I-Team: Engineer who ran red light worked for Oak Brook firm
As the death toll from Friday's disaster in Los Angeles rose to 23, investigators announced Saturday that a preliminary investigation has determined that the Metrolink engineer failed to stop at a red light, causing the collision. The engineer is believed to have died in the crash.

The unidentified engineer worked for a subcontractor, Veolia, used by Metrolink since 1998 and based outside of Chicago.

Veolia Transportation, is headquartered at 2105 Spring Road in west suburban Oak Brook. Veolia is North America's largest private transportation provider. The company offers "a complete range of transportation solutions; from commuter bus to rail; from private hire to paratransit; from bus-rapid-transit to shared ride transportation."

The Metrolink train collided with a Union Pacific freight train Friday afternoon in the Chatsworth area of Los Angeles.

Metrolink spokeswoman Denise Tyrrell announced that the Veolia engineer was to blame even before investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board, leaders of the probe, made any public statements about the crash.

"Even if the train is on the main track, it must go through a series of signals, and each one of the signals must be obeyed," Tyrrell told reporters. "What we believe happened, barring any new information from the NTSB, is we believe that our engineer failed to stop ... and that was the cause of the accident.

Officials say there were 222 people on the Metrolink train and four Union Pacific employees aboard the freight train.

"We don't know how the error happened," she continued, "but this is what we believe happened. We believe it was our engineer who failed to stop at the signal."

"When two trains are in the same place at the same time, somebody's made a terrible mistake," she said.

She said she didn't know if the engineer ever had any previous problems operating trains or had any disciplinary issues. She said he had been driving Metrolink trains since 1996.

A spokeswoman for Oak Brook (Illinois)-based Veolia Transportation said in a statement that the firm is deeply saddened by the incident and is cooperating fully with investigators to find the cause.

Veolia has more than 14,000 employees. It operates a fleet of nearly 6,500 vehicles, according to the company's Web site and operates "bus services in many states, as well as commuter trains in Boston and Los Angeles (Metrolink)."

Friday's accident is the worst rail tragedy in the U.S. since March 15, 1999 when an Amtrak train hit a tractor trailer and derailed in far south suburban Bourbonnais. Eleven people were killed, and more than 100 were injured.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report).

For more information, log on to http://www.veoliatransportation.com/.

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