Tuesday, July 31, 1990

Blue Line Takes Teenagers Toes

Teen Plays 'Dare,' Loses Toes to Blue Line Train Transit
This first major injury associated with the new commuter service, which today will start charging passengers $1.10 for a one-way ride.

Los Angeles Times
By George Ramos
August 1, 1990

Los Angeles, CA - As officials prepared for today's $1.10 fare startup on the Blue Line, a teen-ager became the first person to receive a major injury associated with the light rail service when he lost several toes while playing a game of "dare" with a train near downtown Los Angeles.

RTD officials said Alejandro Hernandez, 13, of Los Angeles, and four friends were running next to a train near the Pico-Flower station Monday night, apparently daring one another to jump and catch a railing bar on a Blue Line car and then jump off. Hernandez, however, slipped and his left foot became caught under the train's wheels.

"He lost several of his toes," said Andrea Greene, a spokeswoman for the Southern California Rapid Transit District.

The train's operator and passengers were unaware of the mishap as the trolley proceeded south on Flower Street, Greene added.

The youth was taken to County-USC Medical Center, where he was in fair and stable condition Tuesday, hospital officials said.

Greene said that while RTD officials regret the accident, they believe that even the most stringent safety measures cannot prevent similar incidents.

"We're doing all that we can," she said, "but this has been going on for decades-boys playing with trains. And who's going to win? Obviously, the train is going to win."

The incident added fuel to arguments from some critics that there are not enough safety precautions along the 22-mile line from Long Beach to Los Angeles.

The head of the RTD bus drivers union said he reminded transit authorities this year that many youngsters play near the line's Pico-Flower station.

"We told them something ought to be done about that," said Earl Clark, general chairman of the United Transportation Union.

He also reiterated fears that unguarded tracks along Washington Boulevard on the southern edge of downtown could lead to accidents. Clark said RTD and state officials responded vaguely that they were looking into several safety concerns along the route.

Transit officials, citing the safety measures in the $11-million contract with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department to provide security on the Blue Line, said they are generally satisfied with efforts to ensure passengers' well-being.

But what can authorities do with playful youngsters who want to outsmart a Blue Line train?

"If we see that type of activity, we will attempt to prevent it," a sheriff's spokesman said.

The trains have been operating free of charge since they began service July 14. One-way fares of $1.10 will begin this morning.