Crime & Justice

Ventura County files manslaughter charge in Oxnard train crash

Workers clean up the street near the burned remains of a truck and trailer at the site where a Los Angeles-bound Metrolink train derailed in a fiery collision on the tracks on Feb. 24, 2015 in Oxnard.
Workers clean up the street near the burned remains of a truck and trailer at the site where a Los Angeles-bound Metrolink train derailed in a fiery collision on the tracks on Feb. 24, 2015 in Oxnard.
David McNew/Getty Images
Workers clean up the street near the burned remains of a truck and trailer at the site where a Los Angeles-bound Metrolink train derailed in a fiery collision on the tracks on Feb. 24, 2015 in Oxnard.
This booking photo provided by the Oxnard Police Department shows Jose Alejandro Sanchez-Ramirez, 54, of Yuma, Arizona, who was the driver of a pickup truck that a Southern California commuter train smashed into on Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2015.
AP
Workers clean up the street near the burned remains of a truck and trailer at the site where a Los Angeles-bound Metrolink train derailed in a fiery collision on the tracks on Feb. 24, 2015 in Oxnard.
An investigator surveys the wreckage of a Los Angeles-bound Metrolink train that derailed in a fiery collision with a truck on the tracks on Feb. 24, 2015 in Oxnard.
David McNew/Getty Images
Workers clean up the street near the burned remains of a truck and trailer at the site where a Los Angeles-bound Metrolink train derailed in a fiery collision on the tracks on Feb. 24, 2015 in Oxnard.
An overturned Metrolink passenger car rests on the side of the road after the train crashed into a truck and derailed early on Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2015 in Oxnard.
Johnny Corona/AP


The Ventura County District Attorney filed a misdemeanor charge Monday of vehicular manslaughter against a pickup truck driver who crashed into and derailed a commuter train last year.

The charge, announced by Gregory Totten on Monday, stems from the Feb. 24 accident that resulted in the death of the train engineer, 62-year-old Glenn William Steele and 34 others injured in the crash in Oxnard. The filing came two days before the statute of limitations for such a charge.

Jose Alejandro Sanchez-Ramirez, 54, of Yuma, Arizona, was initially jailed by investigators but was released. Police found the disoriented driver of the demolished Ford F-450 pickup 1.6 miles from the crossing 45 minutes after the crash. His attorney didn't immediately respond to phone, text and email messages from The Associated Press for comment.

But attorney Ron Bamieh told reporters last year that his client accidentally turned onto the tracks and made repeated attempts to get the vehicle off the rails, then ran for his life as the train approached.

The announcement notes that he "did not notify authorities of his predicament prior to the collision and derailment."

Bamieh has said Sanchez-Ramirez, who doesn't speak English well, tried to get help from a passer-by, attempted to call his employer, and eventually reached his son to help him speak with police.

The National Transportation Safety Board said Sanchez-Ramirez turned right 55 feet prematurely onto train tracks in what it termed a "mistake" — getting caught there — during the dark early morning hours.

The investigation took nearly a year to complete and was submitted for review Feb. 10. Sanchez-Ramirez is scheduled to be arraigned March 23 in Ventura County.

Oxnard Police Assistant Chief Jason Benites said the filing is "serious" and indicates that there's "some degree of contributory negligence" that caused Steele to be killed.

If found guilty, Sanchez-Ramirez faces up to a year in jail.