Richard Myles thought it was going to be a typical Friday.
Friday, Sept. 12 was an early work day for 58-year-old Myles, who is employed as a supervisor at the City of Los Angeles’ Bureau of Sanitation where he has worked for 31 years. As was his typical routine, he had caught the early Metrolink 111 train back to Moorpark where he lives and was looking forward to a good weekend with his family.
Myles craned his neck to see if he could sit in his typical seat. “But all the seats in the back of the train were already taken,” Myles recalls, who said he had noticed a jump in ridership since gas prices had soared sky high.
A survivor of the Glendale Metrolink crash four years ago which left 11 dead, Myles had suffered a contusion to his knee that had required weeks of rehabilitation. So he had taken to sitting in the back of the train. “I had done some research which indicated that sitting in the back of the train was safer,” Myles told Our Weekly in an exclusive interview.
Despite his earlier mishap, Myles said that train travel was safe and he enjoyed the hour and 10 minute ride that took him from the suburbs to downtown Los Angeles and back again. “What’s good about the train is that you’re not on the road. You can do work for your job and you can relax and take a nap.”
But for Myles, Friday would be anything but typical.
About 4:22 p.m., Myles heard the crash of metal as the Metrolink train collided with a Union Pacific train that was on the same track. According to local authorities, it would turn out to be one of the deadliest train collisions in U.S. history. Nearly 135 passengers would suffer injuries and 25 would lose their lives.
As the trains collided, I went through the seat in front of me,” Myles recalls. After the collision, Myles said he felt a sharp pain course through his head. “I knew this time that I was much more severely injured than I had been in the Glendale crash,” said Myles. “I couldn’t support my head and I was feeling constant pain. Later, I found that my head had been shoved into my neck.”
Myles said he forced himself to exit the train. “I knew that if the train caught fire, there would be a lot of smoke and toxic fumes.”
Stumbling off the Metrolink, Myles said he sat on the tracks holding his head and waited for help.
Everywhere he looked, bodies of passengers were scattered on the grass. A triage was quickly set up to tend to the injured.
“Finally, someone came over and said, ‘Anyone who can walk, make your way to the triage.’”
Meanwhile, Helen, Richard’s wife, was calling his cell phone and was worried when he did not pick up. “I was waiting to pick him up at the train station, and he usually calls me to let me know what train he’ll be on. Then I saw people frantically calling on their cell phones and their faces looked strange. Finally, I asked, ‘What’s going on? And they said, ‘The trains collided.’”
Myles was transported to Glendale Memorial Hospital but his injuries were so severe that he was later transferred to Kaiser Medical Center where he was rushed into emergency surgery. Doctors operated for three hours to fuse some broken bones in his upper neck with screws and metal rods.
“The surgery came out well,” said Myles, who is recuperating at Kaiser Hospital Sunset near Vermont Avenue in Los Angeles. Doctors had told him that rehabilitation will take at least three months. Myles said he is gratified to be alive and that he is lucky to have escaped his second brush with death.
“My brother-in-law works for the city and his best friend was killed. I used to see his friend every day,” recalls Myles. “There’s a lot of anger because you come inches to losing your life,” Myles admitted. “I survived, but I really feel for the passengers who lost their loved ones. I feel guilty because I was not able to help.”
As he lies in his hospital bed in a neck brace and attended to by his wife and his daughter, Myles said his appreciation for life has never been greater.
“People need to appreciate and realize what they have because it’s never as bad as they think it is,” he reflected.
As for once again climbing onboard the Metrolink, Myles said he still is not sure whether he will ever ride the rails again, even though he has one year left until retirement.
Getting back on the Metrolink? I’m going to have to “think about it,” he said.