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Several Accidents Preceded First Fatality on Expo Train Tracks in Santa Monica


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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

November 7, 2017 -- Several accidents, both before and after the Expo Light Rail line debuted in Santa Monica, preceded the collision that left a pedestrian dead Sunday night but they resulted in only minor injuries.

Police asked for public assistance Monday after the first pedestrian fatality since light rail officially debuted in the city a year and a half ago.

The victim of the collision, which occurred at about 11:05 p.m. Sunday, remained unidentified, said Santa Monica Police Lt. Saul Rodriguez.

He said the victim was male, and that his body had been found by investigators on the tracks along “three or four blocks.”

The man was struck near 14th Street and Colorado Avenue but the conductor didn’t realize the train “had hit someone” and continued to the 4th Street terminal downtown, Rodriguez said.

It was the first fatality on the Expo’s tracks since the light-rail route expanded from its first phase -- from downtown Los Angeles to Culver City -- reaching Santa Monica in May 2016 ("All Aboard Santa Monica’s New Light Rail Line," May 20, 2016).

“The investigation is ongoing and investigators are interested in speaking with anyone who was in the area at the time of the collision,” police said in a statement Monday.

Anyone with additional information is asked to contact Investigator Olson at (310) 458-8954; or the Santa Monica Police Department at (310) 458-8491.

The Expo line -- which includes three stops in Santa Monica -- brought the first train service to the city by the bay since the days of the Red Car more than 60 years ago ("The Last Train to Santa Monica," May 23, 2016).

The service became popular quickly, reaching a daily average of 64,000 passenger boardings in July -- a goal officials originally thought would take until 2030 to achieve ("Expo Line to Santa Monica Hits Target Ridership 13 Years Ahead of Schedule," July 11, 2017).

But questions were raised from the beginning about whether enough safety precautions had been taken.

A report to the City Council before the opening of Expo in Santa Monica noted that walkers, bicyclists and others had become accustomed to crossing the empty rail tracks in the decades since the Red Car made its last run.

Between September 24 and October 26 2015, Santa Monica officials noted more than 2,788 instances of pedestrians on the guideway, 503 instances of bicyclists on the tracks and 153 skateboarders trespassing on the guideway, a staff report found.

Officials launched an education campaign warning the public to take extra care when crossing the lines.

Before Expo opened for regular service, two collisions occurred during the testing phase.

In December 2015, a Metro test train and an the 18-wheel stake bed truck collided at the intersection of Colorado Avenue and 7th Street ("Expo Test Train Collides with 18 Wheeler in Santa Monica," December 11, 2015).

The driver of the truck was transported to a local hospital where he was treated for minor injuries.

That month, the City Council approved fencing along stretches of Colorado Avenue, reversing a 2011 decision that found fencing to be visually obtrusive ("Santa Monica Will Add Fencing Around Expo Rail Tracks," December 18, 2015).

In May, one week before the rail line opened, another test tain collided with a pickup truck making an illegal turn at the intersection of Lincoln Boulevard and Colorado. No one was hurt ("Test Train and Pickup Collide in Santa Monica," May 13, 2016).

After barriers were erected for the offical opening of the line, the accidents had been minor before Sunday's fatality ("Simulated Expo Train Runs Start in Santa Monica," March 23, 2016).

This September, a crash caused minor injuries to the driver and in late October, a pedestrian using a crosswalk in the mid-block of 1500 Colorado at about 4:40 p.m. was struck by an Expo train traveling eastbound into the 17th Street Station, authorities said.

The victim was transported to the hospital with non life- threatening injuries.

In Sunday’s death on the tracks, the victim was pronounced dead at the scene, authorities said. It is being investigated as an accident, authorities said.

It capped three days marked by violent incidents in the well-to-do beach city, which has seen rising crime but is still unaccustomed to major crime and fatalities ("Stabbing, Shooting Incidents in Santa Monica Heighten Concern Over Crime," November 6, 2017).

Police are searching for a man considered armed and dangerous after a stabbing Friday in front of the downtown REI store.

They also are looking for suspects in the death 23 hours later on Saturday of a young mother following shots fired between two party buses near the Pier.

Police are seeking the public’s assistance in all the incidents.


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