LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Ten people were killed and about 200 injured on Wednesday when two Los Angeles commuter trains collided after one of them hit a vehicle left on the tracks by a man contemplating suicide, authorities said.
Police and city officials said the 26-year-old man, whom they described as "deranged," watched the two trains smash into each other at high speed after leaving his Jeep Cherokee on the tracks.
The man was found wandering the scene after the accident, muttering: "I'm sorry, I'm sorry." Police said the man, who was not injured, was in custody and would be charged with murder.
About 40 of those hurt in the crash were critically injured. The incident occurred just after 6 a.m. local time(0900 EST).
Metrolink, the Southern California commuter rail service that operates the train tracks, said it was the worst accident in its 13-year history.
"For me, this is the worst train accident I have ever seen," Los Angeles Fire Department Capt. Rex Vilaubi said.
Officials said the man had slashed his wrists and stabbed himself in the chest before driving onto the tracks away from the regular crossing point.
"He took his vehicle and apparently maneuvered it into an area on the tracks (and) got the vehicle stuck on the tracks. He was intent at the time on taking his own life but changed his mind prior to the train striking his vehicle," Glendale Police Chief Randy Adams told a news conference.
"He exited the vehicle and stood by as the southbound train struck his vehicle, causing the train to derail and strike the northbound train."
The commuter trains also struck a parked freight train, causing a brief fire. The collision took place in an industrial area near Glendale, north of the Los Angeles downtown area.
"It's an outrage that people coming to work on a very safe train system would have to face an outrage like this," said Los Angeles Sheriff Lee Baca.
"When some individual parks his vehicle on the train track knowing full well that a train is coming, this is cause for serious, serious alarm." he said.
Emergency teams were searching the debris five hours after the crash, checking for more possible victims.
The impact sent passengers flying through the train and landing on top of one another. Firefighters, who arrived first on the scene, found injured passengers walking around dazed, some of them pushing others in shopping carts taken from a nearby shopping center.
"It's like we went from 55 to 60 (mph) to zero in two seconds flat," one injured man told reporters.
Carol Smith, 50, was on her way downtown to work and had just put down her newspaper. "And all of a sudden, the train pulls the brakes and jerks and the lights went out," Smith said. She was able to walk off unscathed, although she saw a number of severe injuries.
"I walked by a lot of people who were lying on the tracks and couldn't move," Smith told Reuters.
The National Transportation Safety Board (news - web sites) sent a team to investigate Wednesday's crash =- the fourth serious train accident in Southern California in the past three years.
In June 2003, runaway freight cars sped out of control toward Los Angeles for 30 miles before derailing and burying four houses under tons of wood.
A five-car commuter train slammed into a flatbed truck and derailed in the Los Angeles suburb of Burbank in January 2003, killing the truck driver and injuring more than 30 others.
In April 2002, a Burlington Northern Santa Fe freight train slammed into a Metrolink train outside Los Angeles in Placentia, killing two people and injuring 162. (Additional reporting by Ben Berkowitz and Nigel Hunt))
He thought his life was messed up before. I bet he wishes he stayed in the car now. His ass is going UNDER the jail. Very sad. It's been on TV all day. I was relieved to know the trains weren't ones I knew people who rode daily. Very sorry for all the lives lost