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Murder charges over LA rail crash

A California man who parked his car on train tracks faced multiple murder charges yesterday in the deaths of 11 people in a fiery chain-reaction crash after a commuter train struck his vehicle.

Officials signaled they might seek the death penalty in the case.

Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley said the 11 counts of murder were filed with "special circumstances," clearing the way for prosecutors to seek the execution of Juan Manual Alvarez, 25, in connection with the accident.

Two hundred people were also injured when two commuter trains smashed together and derailed in a fiery wreck on Wednesday.

Police said Alvarez, who has a history of mental, family and drug problems, had slashed his wrists and stabbed himself in the chest shortly before parking his sport-utility vehicle on the tracks, but jumped clear at the last moment and watched the ensuing collisions.

Alvarez was not injured in the crash and was described by police as distraught and remorseful. He was being kept under suicide watch in the jail ward of a local hospital before an expected arraignment later yesterday.

"The facts are pretty self-evident to us and we are filing charges based on the evidence that has been gathered," Mr Cooley told CNN. "The train's been derailed. It was his car that caused the derailment. He put the car there."

Mr Cooley said authorities would decide whether to pursue the death penalty after evaluating the case.

"He certainly intended to commit the act of train derailment. And under California law, committing that act alone, whether one intended to kill anyone on the train or not, can lead to murder charges," Mr Cooley said.

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