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Spokeswoman resigns

CHATSWORTH METROLINK DISASTER:

Metrolink board member says she was not a ‘fall guy.’ Students mourn for counselor.

September 15, 2008|By Veronica Rocha

LOS ANGELES — Metrolink spokeswoman Denise Tyrrell resigned hours after she was criticized Sunday for making statements blaming La Crescenta resident Robert Sanchez in Friday’s train collision that killed 26 people, including a Glendale school counselor, and injured 138.

Tyrrell resigned after Southern California Regional Rail Authority board members said her statement Saturday was “premature” in blaming Sanchez, a contract Metrolink train engineer killed in the crash, for failing to stop at a red light.

The collision between a Union Pacific freighter and commuter train, Metrolink 111, which carried 225 passengers, occurred about 4:40 p.m. in Chatsworth. The crash was described as the worst crash in Metrolink’s history, surpassing the Jan. 26, 2005, crash in Glendale in the number of lives lost.

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The crash’s death toll rose to 26 Monday after a 50-year-old man who was in critical condition was pronounced dead at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, coroner’s officials said.

Tyrrell’s comments presumed that Metrolink was responsible for the collision, said Metrolink board member and Glendale City Councilman Ara Najarian. “It is way too early to accept liability,” he said.

The Metrolink board didn’t pressure Tyrrell to resign, Najarian said, adding that he was shocked by her resignation.

“Clearly, it’s not something that the board was calling for,” he said. “We are not making her the fall guy for the crash. There is a lot of things we could have done better.”

National Transportation Safety Board investigators are looking into reports that Sanchez was exchanging text messages with two 14-year-old boys minutes before the crash in Chatsworth.

Sanchez and 55-year-old Ron Grace, a Simi Valley resident who was a counselor at Roosevelt Middle School in the Glendale Unified School District, were among the 25 people killed in the collision. Also killed were Walter Fuller, 54, of Moorpark, who was an air traffic control manager for Bob Hope Airport, Dean Brower, 51, a contract operator for the Water Reclamation Plant in Burbank, and Alan Buckley, 59, of Simi Valley who was a Burbank public works mechanic.

Two city of Glendale Public Works employees and resident Richard Slavett were injured in the crash.

Counselors and administrators Monday comforted Roosevelt Middle School students, teachers and staff members reeling from Grace’s death.

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