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Freight Train Derails, Car Hits Apartment House, No Injuries

October 9, 1990

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A freight train derailed Monday in an crash of splintered railroad ties and twisted steel, and a flatcar slammed into an apartment building, stopping just short of a woman and her children.

Nobody was injured in the 10:10 a.m. derailment of the Santa Fe Railway train, the third time in a month a train jumped the tracks in Southern California and the second close call between residents and a derailed train.

The cause of Monday’s derailment was under investigation.

″I was very afraid,″ said Irma Quintanar, who was sweeping her second- story balcony as her two children played nearby when the flatcar smashed into the side of her building just a few feet away.

Nine cars of the Los Angeles-bound 53-car Santa Fe Railway train derailed about 40 yards east of the building, tearing up 600 yards of track, smashing telephone poles and splintering railroad ties.

Most of the cars tumbled to their sides against the side of the lowered railway bed, but a flatcar carrying white truck trailers buckled at a right angle, smashed into three parked cars, and hit the apartment building.

The train demolished a stairwell, knocked out an 8-foot-by-8-foot hole in the downstairs unit and crumbled and cracked part of the living room wall of Quintanar’s upstairs unit.

Large chunks of drywall littered Quintanar’s living room, and a piece of the ceiling fell onto the couch.

″I feel very lucky,″ Quintanar said in Spanish through an interpreter. ″If my children were inside, it would have been very bad.″

Francisco Covarrubias, who lives at the other end of the complex, said children were playing in the complex on the warm Columbus Day holiday when he heard what seemed like an explosion and felt the ground shaking.

″It’s confusion. You really don’t know what’s coming. You feel the danger coming but you don’t know from where,″ he said. ″I first looked up at the sky to see if something was coming down.″

Authorities evacuated the apartment building.

Though no injuries were reported, one pregnant woman was taken to a hospital for observation, said Assistant Chief Bob Ramirez of the Los Angeles Fire Department.

Santa Fe Railway Assistant Superintendent Neal Leaverton said the cause of the derailment was unknown. He also did not know how fast the train was traveling when it derailed on a wide, downhill curve.

The derailment was the third in the Los Angeles area in the last month.

Fourteen runaway railroad cars collided with a locomotive in Pico Rivera on Sept. 9, and nine cars derailed, one of them landing just inches from a home.

About two weeks later a boxcar loaded with Navy munitions jumped the tracks in Westminster. No one was injured in either derailment.

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