Family of Victim Files Claim Over LA Train Wreck

September 19, 2008

Speaking through tears, the family of a 19-year-old killed in a deadly commuter train collision filed a claim on Sept. 15, 2008, against the regional rail system and demanded safety reforms from Metrolink trains.

The parents of Aida Magdaleno are the first to take steps to sue the Southern California Regional Rail Authority in the wake of a head-on collision Friday of a Metrolink train and a Union Pacific freight. Twenty-five people were killed and 138 others were injured.

“I had to lose my sister and the Metrolink has to create changes now,” said the victim’s brother Juan Magdaleno, 33, struggling to speak through a sob.

He said his sister was sitting in the first passenger car when the trains collided, ramming the Metrolink engine backward, deep into the car. Aida Magdaleno was the youngest of five siblings.

Attorney Paul Kiesel said the train wreck could have been prevented if Metrolink had invested in a safety system known as positive control technology. The technology is used on 240 miles of track for high-speed trains in the Northeast, and is being tested in 16 states.

“We’re putting Metrolink on notice that we will be filing a lawsuit,” said Kiesel. “The easy answer is to lay blame on the engineer, but there are many more issues at hand.”

Metrolink spokesman Francisco Oaxaca declined to comment on the claim, which must be denied if a lawsuit can be filed.

Kiesel said his firm, Kiesel Boucher Larson, LLP, was also lead counsel in a 2003 Burbank Metrolink crash that left two people dead and 32 hurt.

Aida Magdaleno’s father, Juvenal, spoke to reporters in Spanish on Monday at a news conference in Beverly Hills. A farmworker who supports his family by picking lemons in Ventura County, Juvenal said he was proud of his daughter’s achievements as a sophomore at California State University, Northridge.

“My daughter had a very bright future. She wanted to be someone, become a social worker, and help others,” the father said through a translator. “But she was stolen from us.”

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