A motorist was being questioned by police tonight after two commuter trains collided in Los Angeles, killing nine and injuring more than 100 passengers.
The smash occurred when a train struck a 4x4 vehicle at a crossing, derailing and “side-swiping” an oncoming train at 6am local time (2pm Irish time).
Several carriages derailed, sending passengers hurtling down the aisles and scattering mangled debris across the tracks. One was twisted backwards by the force of the crash, officials said.
Los Angeles Sheriff Lee Baca said authorities were speaking to the driver of the vehicle.
“It didn’t appear that the vehicle had stalled,” he said. “It appears that it was deliberately placed there.”
Almost 300 firefighters worked at the scene in Glendale, near Hollywood.
Reports suggested that the driver had second thoughts about a suicide bid, leaving his vehicle at the last minute.
Emergency crews climbed ladders into windows of a battered carriage tipped onto its side, working to free wounded passengers.
Smoke rose from the site as medical teams carried victims from the carriages to a command post set up in a nearby car park.
Dazed passengers, some limping, staggered from the wreckage. The injured were treated on colour-coded mats while 35 ambulances ferried people to local hospitals.
Officials said it had been a “very difficult morning” with 100 people taken to hospital and around 200 treated.
Fire Chief William Bamattre said recovery operations would continue at a number of areas on the site.
“We have two separate incidents on each side of the track dealing with around 100 people each,” he said.
“We have been through the carriages around five separate times but one area is severely damaged and we have to do a heavy rescue operation to be certain we have everybody out.”
One Metrolink train had come from Los Angeles’s Union Station, headed for Burbank. The other was en route to Union Station from Moorpark.
“I heard a noise. It got louder and louder,” said passenger Diane Brady, 56, of Simi Valley. “And next thing I knew the train tilted, everyone was screaming and I held onto a pole for dear life.
“I held on for what seemed like a week and a half, it seemed. It was a complete nightmare.”
The exact circumstances of the crash are being investigated by the The National Transportation Safety Board.