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A commuter train engineer sent a cell phone text message 22 seconds before his commuter train crashed head-on into freight train in Southern California last month, killing 25 people, federal investigators said Wednesday.

Cell phone records of Robert Sanchez, who was among the dead, show he received a text message a minute and 20 seconds before the crash and sent one about a minute later, the National Transportation Safety Board said in a news release.

The finding led Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph H. Boardman to announce an emergency order prohibiting use of personal electronic devices by rail workers operating trains and in other key jobs. The order must be published in the Federal Register to take effect. Spokesman Rob Kulat said that would happen "soon." California regulators have already enacted a ban.

Investigators are looking into why Sanchez ran through a red signal before the Metrolink train collided with a Union Pacific train Sept. 12 on a curve in the San Fernando Valley community of Chatsworth. The time of the final text suggests it is unlikely he had become incapacitated for some reason.

The records obtained from Sanchez's cell phone provider also show that he sent 24 text messages and received 21 over a two-hour period during his morning shift. During his afternoon shift, he received seven messages and sent five.

Sanchez sent his last text message at 4:22:01 p.m. According to the freight train's on-board recorder, the accident occurred at 4:22:23 p.m.

Metrolink board member Richard Katz said in an interview that the NTSB told his agency that another engineer on a Metrolink train has been suspended for sending a text message from his cell phone at about the same time as the Sept. 12 collision. That engineer was not identified.


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