Phone Calls From The Dead

Metrolink Crash/Derailment

On 12 September 2008 at 4:22 p.m. in California’s San Fernando Valley, a commuter train carrying 225 passengers collided at a combined speed of 83 mph with a Union Pacific freight train run by a crew of three. In what came to be known as the Chatsworth crash, 135 people were injured (of which 87 were taken to hospitals, 46 in critical condition), and 25 died.

One of those who died in that horrible accident was Charles Peck. Peck was a 49-year old Delta customer service agent at Salt Lake City International Airport. He had come to Los Angeles for a job interview at Van Nuys Airport to be closer to his fiancé, Andrea Katz. His fiancé heard about the crash from a news report on the radio as she was driving to the train station to pick up Charles up. Peck’s parents and siblings (who live in the Los Angeles area) were with her.

Peck’s body was recovered from the wreckage 12 hours after the accident. Yet for the first eleven of those hours, his cell phone placed call after call to his loved ones, calling his son, his brother, his stepmother, his sister, and his fiancé. In all, his various family members received 35 calls from his cell phone through that long night. When they answered, all they heard was static; when they called back, their calls went straight to voicemail. But the calls gave them hope that the man they loved was still alive, just trapped somewhere in the wreckage.

The barrage of calls prompted search crews to trace the whereabouts of the phone through its signal and to once again look through what was left of the first train, the location the calls were coming from. At 9:08 p.m., nearly five hours after the crash, Peck’s fiancé Andrea Katz received one of those calls. But when she answered, all she heard was static. Despite hearing nothing from the other side she told him to hang on and that help was on the way. The last phone call came from Charles Peck’s phone at 3:28 a.m., almost an hour before they found his lifeless body.

Medical examination of his body showed that he had died quickly after the collision, almost instantaneously.


Los Angeles Times

Photo Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times / September 12, 2008