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Metrolink fires two top supervisors

March 5, 2009 |  4:24 pm

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Metrolink officials said today they were removing two of the top managers who supervised the train engineer suspected of causing last year’s Chatsworth rail crash.

The employees -- who worked for Connex Railroad, a Metrolink subcontractor -- are General Manager Tom McDonald and Assistant General Manager Gregg Konstanzer. Both testified earlier this week at a National Transportation Safety Board hearing in Washington.

“Metrolink’s first priority is the safety of our passengers. The disturbing revelations of misconduct by a Connex employee and the subsequent testimony by Connex’s top managers before an NTSB investigator was dealt with immediately,” said Keith Millhouse, Metrolink board chairman.

“Simply put, we fired them from Metrolink.”

The two-day Washington hearing detailed how engineer Robert M. Sanchez allowed teenage rail fans to ride in locomotive control cabs. He also sent and received hundreds of text messages while scheduled to operate trains in the days leading up to the crash, despite receiving two earlier warnings that on-the-job cellphone use was in violation of rail policy.

Sanchez, who was among the 25 people killed in the collision, also was text messaging about the time he sped through a red signal and into a sharp curve of shared, single track, investigators say. His Metrolink commuter train slammed head-on into a Union Pacific freight train, killing him and 24 passengers and injuring 135, federal investigators say.

A Connex spokesman had no immediate comment.

-- Rich Connell

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