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Local men among dead

Air traffic control manager and Public Works mechanic killed in Chatsworth crash.

September 15, 2008|By Jason Wells and The Leader

WOODLAND HILLS — Richard Slavett awoke on Friday afternoon in the front car of the Metrolink 111 train moments after it collided head-on with a southbound Union Pacific freighter in Chatsworth.

His body in searing pain, Slavett, 69, took a few seconds to take in his surroundings. He was pressed up against a dead passenger. Smoke was filling the cabin. He grabbed his briefcase, crawled to a torn opening in the car and slipped off its edge.

Though he was badly bruised internally, Slavett — a longtime Kiwanis of Glendale member and owner of Glendale Tire Co. — had just survived the worst crash in Metrolink’s history.

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Twenty-five others — ranging in age from 18 to 75 — were not so lucky.

As of Sunday, the official count in the Chatsworth crash Friday was 25 dead and 135 injured, 40 of them critically.

“It was like a war scene,” Slavett said. “I’ll never forget it.”

He was just one of at least a half-dozen known passengers on the Metrolink 111 from Glendale or Burbank who either died or sustained injuries.

Roosevelt Middle School counselor Ron Grace was among those confirmed dead in the wreck. The Metrolink engineer, Robert Sanchez, who also died in the crash, was a La Crescenta resident.

At least two city employees were injured in the crash, as was a Hoover High School teacher.

In Burbank, a longtime Public Works mechanic was among those killed in the collision, as was an air traffic control manager for Bob Hope Airport.

Dozens more riders who commute back and forth to the Glendale and Burbank areas for work were likely among the 225 passengers on the train, but their identities could not be confirmed.

The collision between Metrolink 111 and a Union Pacific freighter Friday afternoon in Chatsworth was the worst crash in the rail authority’s history, claiming the dubious distinction from Glendale, which in 2005 was the site of a deadly derailment that killed 11 people and injured 184 passengers and crew members.

The Cause

Federal investigators on Sunday confirmed preliminary assessments that had the Metrolink train passing through a red light as it traveled north to the Chatsworth station.

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