Thursday, May 7, 1998

Blue Line Kills Woman at Vernon Station

Blue Line Train Kills Woman

Los Angeles Times
By Susan Abram
May 08, 1998

A female pedestrian was struck and killed by a Blue Line commuter train in South Los Angeles on Thursday morning, just 12 hours after a tow truck and another MTA train collided in the area. One man died and 17 were injured in that crash.

The woman, whose name was being held pending notification of next of kin, was hit about 10:30 a.m. by a southbound train traveling about 25 mph as it was approaching the station near Vernon, said LAPD spokeswoman Carol Mitchell.

“She just darted out to go across the street” to try to beat the train, Mitchell said. “The gate was down and all the warning systems appeared to be functioning at that time.”

Later Thursday, the southbound Blue Line was shut down for about 45 minutes while sheriff’s deputies removed a pipe bomb found in an apartment building near the tracks in Long Beach.

Long Beach police said they discovered the device while investigating reports of a “foul odor” emanating from an apartment. Also found in the apartment were a rifle, ammunition, narcotics and drug paraphernalia, police said.

The occupant of the apartment, Michael Plechot, 36, of Long Beach, was detained for questioning, an officer said.

Meanwhile, MTA officials continued their investigation of the fatal crash Wednesday night when a Blue Line train hit a tow truck.

The tow truck driver, whose name was held pending notification of relatives, died early Thursday at Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center, a hospital representative said.

Two passengers in the tow truck were injured, along with 15 in the train.

The collision occurred about 10:30 p.m. Wednesday near East 115th Street and Wilmington Avenue, said Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Brian Humphrey. A total of 30 city firefighters were sent to the scene, where Humphrey said the tow truck was “mangled.”

MTA spokesman Ed Scannell said the train was approaching a station at Imperial Highway and Wilmington Avenue.

The tow truck appeared to have crossed the tracks after making an illegal left turn on 114th Street, and headed in the wrong direction, Scannell said.

“That intersection is quite unusual because Wilmington crosses the track but not at a right angle,” Scannell said. “People approaching the tracks on those streets do not have access to the tracks,” he said, but there is a “big red sign that says ‘Do Not Enter.’ ”

Scannell said there have been 37 fatalities on the Blue Line tracks since 1990. MTA officials have cited about 5,000 people since 1995 for illegally crossing the tracks when the signals are displayed.