September 17, 2008 in Nation/World

L.A. man hero in one crash, but is victim in another

By Ari B. Bloomekatz, Victoria Kim and Hector Becerra Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES – Three years ago, Gregory Lintner walked away with only scrapes and bruises from a Metrolink train crash in Glendale near downtown Los Angeles that killed 11 people. One woman, bloodied and badly injured, called the Army veteran a “hero” for staying by her side as they waited for emergency crews to arrive.

He was OK, Lintner told everyone afterward. He continued riding the train.

Then on Friday, the unthinkable happened.

Lintner, 48, was once again caught in a deadly Metrolink accident. This time, he was among the 25 people killed when their commuter train collided head-on with a Union Pacific freight train.

“Last time, my husband came back,” his wife, Michelle, said in an interview Monday in her native Korean, her eyes red from sobbing. “It doesn’t make sense that I can’t touch him anymore.”

At least three people who survived the Glendale crash in 2005 were on Metrolink 111 when it crashed Friday afternoon.

Willie Castro, 67, of Simi Valley had made a vow to himself after living through the 2005 crash:

“I said after that, I am never going to ride the train again,” he said.

But there he was last week, sitting not far from the wreck in the San Fernando Valley – his leg feeling like it was broken after two men had carried him out of the train.

Richard Myles, 58, a supervisor with the Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation, had been more sanguine. “I thought, ‘That’ll never happen again,’ ” he said as he recovered from surgery at a Los Angeles hospital.

Still, he bargained with fate, trying to make sure he always sat in the last car, which he thought would be safer – a practice he broke last week because the train was too crowded.

And then there was Lintner.

In the moments after the Glendale crash in 2005, he remained with an injured passenger, Patti Hudson of Idyllwild, reassuring her that help was on the way. “He said, ‘Don’t worry. I’m going to stay with you,’ ” recalled Hudson, who referred to Lintner as “a real hero.” Of the 11 killed in that crash, eight were in their car.

Lintner continued to stay in touch with his fellow passengers, meeting occasionally with other survivors. He carried newspaper clippings about the Glendale crash and closely followed the criminal trial of the man who caused the accident by parking his truck on the railroad tracks. He couldn’t put it behind him, his family said.

“He told me he never got off that train,” Michelle Lintner said.

It was only recently that her husband began showing signs of coming out of what she called his emotional “coma.”

For about a month after the Glendale crash, Lintner wondered whether it was a good idea to take the train again. But his family said he enjoyed riding the train because of the sense of community he forged with other passengers and the time it afforded him to catch up on his reading. So he decided to continue taking it to work.

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