SAN PEDRO, Calif. – An engineer deliberately ran a train off the tracks at high speed near the Port of Los Angeles in an attempt to crash into the USNS Mercy hospital ship, prosecutors say.
The Pacific Harbor Line train derailed Tuesday, running through the end of the track and crashing through barriers, finally coming to rest about 250 yards from the docked naval ship, ABC 7 reported.
Eduardo Moreno, 44, of San Pedro intended to hit the ship, according to federal prosecutors. They assert he thought it was “suspicious” and did not believe “the ship is what they say it’s for.'”
As the train barreled a path toward USNS Mercy, it crashed into a concrete barrier at the end of the track, smashed through a steel barrier and a chain-link fence, slid through one parking lot and then a second lot filled with gravel and hit a second chain-link fence. However, it fell short of Moreno’s destination. It came to rest after passing under a ramp leading to the Vincent Thomas Bridge. The train remained in that position Wednesday.
Although no one was injured in the bizarre derailment, the train leaked fuel that required a hazmat response.
Investigators say Moreno admitted to intentionally running the train off tracks. Moreover, they said it was a spontaneous act with no co-conspirators.
“You only get this chance once,” Moreno reportedly told a CHP officer. “The whole world is watching. I had to. People don’t know what’s going on here. Now they will.”
Officials say video from inside the train’s cab shows Moreno holding a lighted flare during the incident, ABC 7 reported.
Moreno has been charged with one count of train wrecking, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison.
The Navy hospital ship arrived at the Port of Los Angeles this weekend to handle non-coronavirus patients. The goal is to help ease the burden of local hospitals that are surging with COVID-19 cases.
The ship has about 1,000 hospital beds, with some 800 active-duty doctors, nurses and medical staff on board. It is expected to stay in Los Angeles at least until September or until it is no longer needed.