Photo: Train Wreck
Firefighters examine the wreckage from a train derailment in Glendale. Two Metrolink commuter trains derailed killing several people and injuring hundreds of others authorities said. (Associated Press)

Daisy Nguyen, The Associated Press, reports:

GLENDALE (CA) – A commuter train smashed into an SUV driven onto its tracks by a suicidal man early Wednesday, derailed and crashed into another Metrolink train, killing 10 people and injuring about 200, authorities said. Dozens of the injured were reported in critical condition.

The SUV driver changed his mind about suicide and left the vehicle before it was hit, Police Chief Randy Adams said. The man will be charged with homicide, he said. He was identified as Juan Manuel Alvarez, 26, of Compton.

“This whole incident was started by a deranged individual that was suicidal,” the chief told a press conference at the scene of mangled railcars north of downtown Los Angeles.

“I think his intent at that time was to take his own life but changed his mind prior to the train actually striking this vehicle,” the chief said. “He exited the vehicle and stood by as the southbound Metrolink train struck his vehicle, causing the train to derail and strike the northbound train.”

The man also had tried to slash his wrists and stabbed himself, the chief said.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca said one of his deputies was among the dead, and that the tragedy raised questions about safety of rail passengers.

“The citizenry deserve better,” Baca said

The disaster struck shortly after 6 a.m. as one Metrolink train was heading to downtown Los Angeles from western suburbs and the other train was outbound from downtown. The wreckage smashed into a freight engine parked on a siding.

Employees of a nearby store and other train passengers rushed to pull the injured from the wreckage as firefighters converged on the scene.

Firefighters picked through twisted wreckage scattered across the tracks and carried wounded passengers from the trains to a triage center set up in a nearby parking lot.

One commuter train was headed from Los Angeles’ Union Station to downtown Burbank, and the other was bound to Union Station from Moorpark, Metrolink officials said. Passengers were sent tumbling down the aisles as the trains derailed.

“I heard a noise. It got louder and louder,” said passenger Diane Brady, 56, of Simi Valley. “And next thing I knew the train tilted, everyone was screaming and I held onto a pole for dear life. I held on for what seemed like a week and a half it seemed. It was a complete nightmare.”

After the train headed to Union Station struck the SUV, one of the trains was propelled into a Union Pacific locomotive parked on a side track, said Kathryn Blackwell, a spokeswoman for Union Pacific in Omaha, Neb.

In a light rain, more than 300 firefighters climbed ladders into windows of a battered train tipped onto its side. Los Angeles fire spokesman Brian Humphrey said firefighters freed about six people from the wreckage and no others were trapped.

Sheriff’s Deputy James Tutino, on his way into work from his home in Simi Valley, was killed in the crash, Baca said. He said Tutino had been with the department for more 23 years.

Dazed passengers, some limping, gathered at tables in a nearby store while the injured sprawled on mats before being whisked away to hospitals by more than 35 ambulances.

“For me this is the worst train accident that I have ever seen. I’ve never seen anything like it,” Los Angeles fire Capt. Rex Vilaubi told KNBC-TV.

One Metrolink car was sent twisting backward by the force of the crash, which occurred after 6 a.m. near the intersection of San Fernando Road and Chevy Chase Boulevard. A small fire that erupted in the crash was quickly extinguished by firefighters, Humphrey said.

Passenger Paul Konkirati, 28, of Burbank, said he was in a front car that broke in two.

“I felt the train sliding so I braced myself and put my foot on the chair next to me and held onto a bar. We hit and then somebody’s head landed on my thigh.”

Konkirati, his jeans covered in blood, said he tried to comfort the woman, “then it got really smoky, so smoky that I had to leave. I don’t know what happened to her.”

Workers at a Costco store near the accident ran out to help after the accident, which occurred in an industrial area with no homes nearby. There were no evacuations.

George Touma, 19, of Burbank, said he was called by his mother, who was on one of the commuter trains.

“She told me she was bleeding in the head and her arm was really hurting,” said Touma, who was near the scene of the accident searching for her. “I’m really worried because she has vertigo and when I tried to call back she wouldn’t answer.

“She said she remembered hearing sequential loud noises and then somebody pulled her out of the train while it was burning. She was in a panicked mode and now she’s not picking up.”

Union Pacific spokesman John Bromley said the track on which the crash occurred is owned and operated by Metrolink.

Metrolink began service in 1992 and operates seven lines, part of a multibillion-dollar transportation network aimed at reducing pollution and congestion in Southern California.