Key Players:
Tommy McDonald (TMcD) -  General Manager (the top executive) of Connex Railroad, LLC / Veolia, which won the 2005 Metrolink  contract to provide locomotive engineers, conductors, management and executives to operate Metrolink’s  700 mile commuter railroad covering 5 Southern California counties where 17 million people live.

Greg Konstanzer (GK) -  Assistant General Manager under Tommy McDonald for Connex Railroad, LLC / Veolia.

Rick Dahl (RD) - Road Foreman  for Connex Railroad, LLC / Veolia – front line supervisor of locomotive engineers and conductors, under McDonald and Konstanzer, and direct boss of Robert Sanchez, Metrolink # 111 locomotive engineer and Robert Heldenbrand, Metrolink # 111 conductor.

Robert Sanchez - employee of Connex Railroad LLC/ Veolia and the Metrolink # 111 locomotive engineer.

Robert Heldenbrand - employee of Connex Railroad LLC/ Veolia and working as the Metrolink # 111 conductor.

Reference are to the pages: lines of depositions containing the testimony under oath given in the lawsuits filed on behalf of the Metrolink # 111 train wreck victims.

Documents listed reference the Bates Stamp (page) numbers or Master Deposition Exhibit (MDE) numbers of  documents which are part of the lawsuits filed on behalf of the Metrolink # 111 train wreck victims. Those beginning with a “C” were produced by the attorneys representing Connex/ Veolia and those with a “M” were produced by the Metrolink attorneys.


2006: Veolia Transportation, Inc, publishes its Business Code of Conduct and posts it on the internet, presumably for all its 70,000 employees to read and follow.  However, four years later, as of  his 2010 deposition, General Manager Tommy McDonald testified that he had never seen it. He saw it the first time during that deposition.

9/7/2006: Robert Sanchez is busted for violating Veolia/Connex’s long existing written cell phone rule.  (His cell phone was called by a Manager, and it rang in his duffle/grip in their presence inside the locomotive cab while he was on duty) - see the "Efficiency Test" record (C--487). Manager Rick Dahl was part of the ‘bust’. Sanchez received no punishment, whatsoever, for this important safety rule violation.

2006: Sanchez discovers his partner hanged himself in their home.

April 3, 2008: The United Transportation Union (UTU) files a complaint with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) warning of the “unsafe, dangerous and illegal” practice of Connex/ Veolia General Manager, Tommy McDonald pressuring conductors to falsify Delay Reports so as to indicate earlier arrival times for the Metrolink trains.  McDonald’s incentive was to increase his and his managers’ “On time arrival “ performance  bonuses and Connex’ /Veolia’s profits by falsely claiming that trains arrived ‘on time’ when they, in fact, did not do so.

Sanchez was driving the train inside the cab car (last passenger car when train runs in reverse) when he   hit/killed a pedestrian-- with his and the pedestrian’s and his eyes about 24 inches apart on impact. See accident report in Master Depo Exhibit #71. Dahl testified he was called to the scene, and that Sanchez was so shook up that he could not drive the train any futher. So Dahl drove the train the rest of the way that day.

- In reverse mode, the locomotive engineer sits in a little compartment (with shade on the side window that pulls down to give him privacy with the teenage boys who he let operate/ ‘drive” the locomotives with passengers, an extremely serious FRA Federal Law violation. And per his text messages,  he had planned to let another teenage boy drive the locomotives post crash.

- Documents  from the highest Connex/Veolia’s management  depict their decision to stop Sanchez' pay after 3 days off  (i.e. forcing him to return to duty, after killing the pedestrian, regardless of his mental state).

"In early August 2008": Dahl admits under oath in his deposition that Conductor Heldenbrand tells him Sanchez is texting at the locomotive controls-- a very serious written rule violation (Dahl depo 102:16-23).  There is no documentary evidence that Dahl or any Connex/Veolia manager did anything thereafter to stop Sanchez' texting – which, if they did, and it was not recorded, would be very unusual because this is an industry with very detailed union and FRA reporting requirements. Dahl testified he did not specifically counsel Sanchez on the cell phone rule.

- Delay Reports are filled out by all conductors on each Metrolink train. They are used to factually support  awarding Connex/Veolia employees “on time arrival” performance bonuses — and Veolia extra profit, if the trains arrived “on time”. The 8/19/08 Delay Report by Heldenbrand  shows a  four (4) minute delay caused by Sanchez’ walking from the locomotive to the rear of the train and back, to see if the rear red safety marker lights were illuminated (C--570). By federal regulations red marker lights must be illuminated when the train is operated.

- A couple days later,  Front Line Veolia/Connex Rail  supervisor, Road Foreman Rick Dahl asked Conductor Heldenbrand to falsify the 8/19/08 Delay Report so as to make the 4 minutes time lost appear that it was due to helping an ADA disabled passenger in a wheelchair-- [thereby saving the "On Time Arrival"" bonus]. RH refused (Heldenbrand depo 271:20 - 274:11)

- Senior Connex/ Veolia management, i.e. Tommy McDonald (TMcD) and/or Greg Konstanzer (GK), - decided to punish both RH (who did nothing except refuse to lie) and Sanchez because  the 4 minute delay for checking the red rear end lights remained on the 8/19/08 Delay Report (C-556, 558, 560, 562, 563).

- Heldenbrand and Sanchez were each given a written citation for formal investigation to “determine the facts and if any written rules were violated” regarding the 8/19/08 four minute delay. These Federal Rail Labor Act sanctioned union member investigations are conducted by upper rail management, which acts as  prosecutor judge and jury (Many union officers and members believe such an ‘investigation’ hearing almost always results in the cited employees being fired) (C-559-561).

--Dahl was thereafter told to change the formal investigation to individual "Counseling Letters" which both Heldenbrand  and Sanchez have to sign,  admitting "guilt" regarding the  4 minute delay. Sanchez signed his on 9/9/08 and Heldenbrand on 9/11/08, 1 and 3 days before the disaster (C-6493, 550,MDE 73).

2:30 PM date of crash 9/12/08: Conductor Heldenbrand calls fellow conductor Chris Leo, lamenting about what to do because his supervisor, Rick Dahl, has done nothing about Sanchez' continual texting, about which he had complained weeks before (Leo depo 23:8 - 26:15).

- As seen from the graphs introduced in the National Transportation Safety Board investigation, Sanchez sent an  average of 25 to 180+ text messages on work days (Mon- Fri) and 10 or less texts on weekends. See NTSB graphic, Exhibit 414046.

- Please refer to the track diagram. In the minutes before the 9/12/08 crash, Sanchez operates (drove) Metro #111 west past the CP Bernson signal light, before which he correctly calls out (“flashing yellow”) on the radio, as required by Connex/ Veolia rules.  But he fails to call out the next signal, No 4451, which was “Solid Yellow” thereby  directing him  to slow to under 40 MPH and be prepared to stop at the next signal (CP Topanga).  He stops at the Chatsworth station for less than a minute and starts out west again, reaching more than 40 MPH and runs through (past ) the red CP Topanga signal just before a blind curve.

- Sanchez sends his  last text message a bit over 1 second after running the red signal at CP Topanga-- which is 22 seconds before the head on crash in a blind curve with the Union Pacific freight train--- both trains derail, and fire breaks out in the Metrolink train. Twenty five (25) die and over 150 are injured, some catastrophically.

-VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: had the Union Pacific freight train been traveling 15 to 20 seconds later (slower) , all people on board both trains would have died-- as the head on collision would have occurred inside tunnel # 28, located just west of the crash site, and out of which the Union Pacific train travelled just before impact.

March, 2009: (next day after the first public NTSB hearing) Metrolink  told Connex/ Veolia that it forbids McDonald and Konstanzer from coming onto its property, one of its rights under the Metrolink- Veolia/Connex Operators Contract. Connex/Veolia replaces them- and puts them on "special assignment."

-Since then Rick Dahl  has been promoted/rewarded by becoming General Manager (top executive officer) of Sprinter, the commuter railroad in Oceanside, California which Veolia also operates.

-Greg Konstanzer was hired by the Veolia division which operates the Miami, Florida commuter rail line, i.e. also a reward.

-Tommy McDonald is still employed at full salary as “Connex Railroad LLC General Manager”.  As of his 2010 deposition, he has no employees working under him and is on "special assignment" - i.e. basically doing nothing.

August, 2010: Veolia and Metrolink run for cover by interpleading  the $200 Federal Amtrak Bill Cap into Federal Court and asking that the Court discharge them of any additional legal liability.  This is accomplished in the early spring, 2011. after which the $ 200 Million Allocation Process was begun.  The Honorable Peter Lichtman, Judge of the Los Angeles Superior court conducted short trials on each of the Victims/ Survivors cases between early March, and mid June, 2011.

July 13, 2011: After hearing the evidence and testimony presented by the attorneys representing each of the Chatsworth Survivors/ Victims, Judge Lichtman filed his Final Judgment Re Allocation of Interpled Funds [Pleading].  Note that Judge Lichtman  found that the cases total damages was between $320 and $350 million.  That he knew that there would  probably not enough funds to fully and fairly compensate everyone, so he also keept a running total of the minimum fair compensation for all. This figure totaled $264 Million --- so he had to cut it (conduct what he calls "judicial triage") to pare the awards down to the $200 Million available.  An example of  how much he had to be cut is the Moyfia case,  which is the largest single award, $9 Million.  The evidence at her trial was that her medical/ rehabilitation bills alone total over $13 million;  she also not only can not ever become a medical doctor (she was admitted to medical school at the time of the crash), but must have around the clock care because of the brain damage she suffered. So there are no funds available for her lost of income.  Again,  if Veolia does not voluntarily pay significantly  more funds on a volunteer basis and because it actually does what its Website touted  business ethics  claims--- it is "Accountable, especially in matters of safety"  the US and State Taxpayers will  have to pick up the cost.