The commuter train pulled out of Union Station just after 3:30 p.m. on Sept. 12, 2008, carrying mostly workers and college students heading home on a Friday afternoon.
An engineer and a conductor, both contracted through Connex Railroad, were at the reins as the train rolled northwest through the San Fernando Valley on its way to the Moorpark station on the Ventura County rail line.
Though he knew he was prohibited from using his cell phone while in the locomotive’s cab, 46-year-old engineer Robert Sanchez, throughout the journey, texted a friend, a teenager from Chatsworth who loved trains. Twice before, federal records show, he had been spotted on the phone and warned.
Sanchez apparently didn’t notice the yellow signal, before pulling into the Chatsworth station, telling him he might need to stop up ahead. Or the red one just beyond that station and before the route switches from two tracks to one.
He was to stop and wait, giving up the single track.