The northbound Burlington Northern Santa Fe freight train struck a stopped southbound Metrolink train at 8:10 a.m. near the southern California town of Placentia. The accident caused the Metrolink train to buckle and derailed two of its double-decker cars packed with passengers.
Firefighters, some using ladders, helped passengers out of the Metrolink.
Orange County officials told reporters 25 people were immediately transported to area hospitals, while 50 others with less serious injuries were being monitored at the scene.
Officials said they were using buses to shuttle some 200 others, classified as “walking wounded,” to nearby hospitals for treatment.
Metrolink passengers said their train paused briefly before being rear-ended by the freight train.
“Our train stopped and the next thing you know — boom! — it hit,” passenger Gene Ogelsby said.
Passenger Scott Wilson described a similar experience.
“The train stopped for a couple seconds. Then the freight train just hit us,” Wilson told the Associated Press. “For me I was facing backward, maybe that’s how I ended up being OK.”
Metrolink spokeswoman Sharon Gavin could offer no explanation why the two trains were on the same track.
“This is obviously a very serious incident and there is an investigation,” said Gavin.
Orange County Fire official Gary Layman said two of the Metrolink train’s three cars derailed but remained upright, and the tracks did not appear to be damaged.
The Metrolink 809 was headed from Riverside to San Juan Capistrano. Company spokeswoman Sharon Gavin said as many as 300 people were aboard when the accident occurred. The train had left the west Corona station and was scheduled to stop at the Anaheim Canyon station.
The freight train was en route from Los Angeles to Clovis, New Mexico according to Richard Russack, a spokesman for Burlington Northern Santa Fe. It carried 67 loaded containers full of automobiles.