LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Three Marines were arrested in a series of freight train burglaries and a derailment that killed one man and caused $3.5 million in damage, the railroad police said Friday.

Pfc. Brian Andrew Banks of West Palm Beach, Fla., Pfc. Sean Patrick Flynn of Spencer Falls, N.Y., and Pfc. Robert Fulton Bryan III of Big Spring, Texas, all 19, were arrested as they trailed a freight train in a pickup truck on Sept. 27, said Southern Pacific Railroad spokesman John Tierney.

The Marines were booked for investigation of theft of an interstate shipment, said Jim Loveland, another spokesman.

Southern Pacific police Capt. Joe Harlan said the three took about 200 containers of merchandise from up to 20 trains between San Bernardino and Indio.

Banks was linked to the Aug. 23 derailment of 37 of a train's 57 cars in the desert near Palm Springs, Tierney said. The derailment killed transient Fernando Garcia, 25, of Baldwin Park.

''He was in the process of burglarizing the train and pulled a cut lever from the ground,'' Tierney alleged. ''The train separated 20 cars behind the locomotive. Then those cars moved on out but the other half started rolling after it at 96 mph.''

The separated cars then caught up with the slower moving train and they slammed together, killing Garcia and slightly injuring another transient riding the train illegally, Tierney said.

FBI spokesman Jim Nielsen said the agency is investigating the incident.

The three Marines, stationed at the Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Air- Ground Combat Center, were released to the custody of the Marine Corps, he said.

Marine Corps spokesman Maj. Kerry Gershaneck said the three have been returned to their units at the combat center's communication-electronics school, where they are training to be radio technicians.

Military authorities are waiting until civilian authorities complete their investigations before deciding on discipline, Gershaneck said.