Saturday, September 12, 1992

Blue Line Kills 21 Year Old

Driver Killed, Passenger Injured in Car Hit by Blue Line Train

Los Angeles Times
By David Ferrell
September 13, 1992

One man was killed and another critically injured when a car swerved around a closed crossing gate and was crushed by an oncoming Metro Blue Line train Saturday in South Los Angeles, authorities said.

Vina Kim, 21, whose car sped around a crossing gate at 55th Street and Long Beach Avenue West, was killed as the southbound train knocked his 1984 Nissan into a metal power pole, witnesses and family members said.

The passenger in the car, whose name was not immediately available, had to be removed from the crushed car by firefighters and was reported in critical condition at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center.

The incident, shortly after 3 p.m., was believed to be the seventh fatal accident involving the 22-mile Blue Line route since it opened in July, 1990. Most of the fatalities, according to police, have involved drivers or pedestrians ignoring warning signs or crossing gates.

Heng Loeum, 19, a friend of Kim's who had been following in a separate car, said Kim's car was the second of three traveling in a caravan south on Long Beach Avenue West, a street running parallel to the Blue Line tracks, just before the accident.

As the cars reached a stop sign before turning east across the tracks onto 55th Street, Loeum said, two northbound trains were approaching from ahead of them. When the first train passed, the driver in the lead automobile skirted the closed crossing gate and made the left turn before the second train arrived. Kim, thinking he could make the same turn ahead of the northbound train, also drove around the closed gate, Loeum said.

Apparently, Kim did not see or hear the southbound Blue Line train that was roaring up from behind, Loeum said. That train struck Kim's car and it hurtled about 40 yards off the tracks and into the power pole, where it caught fire.

"Even me, I didn't see the train coming from the left . . . I didn't hear it," Loeum said. "If (Kim) had passed (through the intersection safely), I would have gone."

Loeum said he pulled over and made unsuccessful attempts to free the driver and passenger from the twisted wreckage before running to telephone police.

Before police arrived, Loeum said, about 15 bystanders attempted to help those in the car.