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NTSB releases preliminary findings in Oxnard truck/train crash

Tragedy can strike at any time and could impact multiple victims at a time. When an accident involves a public transportation vehicle, it is crucial to understand the cause of the incident so those injured can take appropriate action to protect their rights and interests.

Investigators have identified an ill-timed right turn for the National Transportation Safety Board or NTSB as the principal cause of the truck-train collision in Oxnard that killed one person and injured 33 victims. Truck crashes can have many different causes, such as driver fatigue, inattention, speeding or equipment failure. In this case, the actual cause has not yet been identified.

The accident occurred in the early morning hours, and according to investigators, the truck driver intended to drive across the railroad tracks and then turn right onto a road that is just past the tracks. Instead, he turned before he reached the road and found himself on the railroad tracks in the path of the oncoming Metrolink commuter train. The truck became stuck on the tracks, causing the driver to jump out with the truck's hazard lights flashing.

A student engineer aboard the train saw the truck, blasted the engine's horn and applied the emergency brakes about a quarter mile from the stalled truck. Despite this effort, seconds late the train slammed into the truck as well as the trailer that it was towing.

The chief engineer of the train suffered fatal injuries and died one week after the accident. Reports indicated that 31 passengers and two crewmembers were injured in the wreck. The truck driver was not injured. Ventura County police arrested and then released the truck driver without making any criminal charges at this time. However, any criminal charges must await the completion of the investigation which could take several months.

The NTSB preliminary report does not establish legal liability for the accident, but given the number of persons injured in the accident and the fact that one fatality occurred, legal actions are almost certain to be filed to determine liability.

Even when liability is not established in a serious accident, victims should understand they have rights and options. Obtaining legal guidance following a crash could help ensure a victim is knowledgeable about their legal rights and remedies.

Source: San Jose Mercury-News, "Safety board issues first findings in Oxnard train-on-truck crash," Associated Press, March 20, 2015

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