In 2008, a freight train in California collided with a passenger train. The head-on collision was one of the worst in California history, killing 25 people and badly injuring at least 100 more. One of those victims was Charles Peck. Though he died on impact, his loved ones continued to receive calls from him for hours after his death. Perhaps it was a technological malfunction – or perhaps it was Charles reaching out from beyond the grave.
Phone Calls From Beyond
On September 12, 2008, 49-year-old Charles Peck was traveling on a commuter train through California’s San Fernando Valley. A service agent at the Salt Lake City Airport, he had been interviewing at the Van Nuys Airport in California. His fiancé lived there, and so moving to California would mean that they could actually get married. (1)
His fiancé Andrea was driving to the train station to pick Charles up when she heard the news of the crash on the radio. Known as the Chatsworth crash, it was a devastating scene. The commuter train ran a red light and collided with a freight train coming in the other direction. The crash happened at 4:22 pm. Shortly after, however, Andrea received a call from Charles’ phone. She answered excitedly, thinking that this meant that he was okay. (2)
When she picked up, however, all she heard was static. She thought perhaps he was trapped in the rubble and was trying to reach her. For the next 11 hours, Charles’ loved ones received the same call from his phone. Calls went to his parents, siblings, and one of his three children from his first marriage. In total, his phone made 35 calls. The rescue team used those calls to find Charles’ body. Sadly, he was not alive when they found him.
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Dead On Impact
The coroner who performed Charles’ autopsy concluded that he had died on impact. Despite this, he continued to make calls for 11 hours past his death. Or at least, his phone did. So this begs the question: Was it Charles making those calls from beyond the grave, trying to reassure his family and loved ones that everything was going to be okay? Or was it simply a busted phone malfunctioning?
The authorities never found Charles’ phone, assuming that it had been destroyed in the crash. If that were so, then how did it make the calls? We know that broken technology can do wonky things, but a phone that is completely destroyed couldn’t possibly make calls, could it? Unfortunately, we will likely never know.
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The Cause of The Crash
The authorities investigating the crash afterward do have a theory as to what may have happened to cause one of the deadliest train crashes in California history. Their investigation led them to some teenagers who were evidently friends with or somehow connected to the conductor of the passenger train.
The teenagers said that they had been texting with the conductor of the train prior to the crash. Sure enough, upon revision of the text messages on their phones, the conductor sent his last text 22 seconds before the crash happened. The theory is that the conductor had been texting and wasn’t paying attention to the rail signs. For this reason, he missed the red signal warning the train to stop. There was a freight train commuting on the same track but in the opposite direction. Had the commuter train stopped at the red as it was instructed to do, the crash never would have happened. Unfortunately, it didn’t, and the freight train had no time to react.
There were three crew members on board the freight train, all three of whom died upon impact. On the commuter train, 25 people died, including the conductor who died on impact just like Charles. One hundred and thirty-five others were injured, 87 went to the hospital, and 46 of those were in critical condition.
It was a very tragic event in California history. For Charles Peck’s family, they will never know exactly how those phone calls were placed. It could have been a technological malfunction, or perhaps it was Charles, calling them to say his final goodbye. We may never know, however, if you would like an alternative explanation, check out the video below.
- “Cell Phone Calls After Death.” Snopes. October 6, 2008
- “In from Utah for job interview, he was on way to meet fiancee.” LA Times. Kate Linthicum. September 17, 2008.