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About 6:30 p.m., two Los Angeles police officers ran from the wreckage of a train wreck asking whether anyone lived in the area. Resident Jim Halty beckoned them over to his house near the tracks and after a brief conversation, Halty gave the officers an American flag.

Almost an hour later, along the side of the wreckage, uniformed LAPD officers formed two lines, waiting for rescue crews to remove the body of a fellow officer. With somber faces and hands clasped in front of them, they waited in silence, many glancing up at the hole cut in the twisted metal of the front train car where firefighters were pulling bodies. Later, sheriff's deputies joined the formation.

It was 10:45 p.m. when a phalanx of nearly a dozen yellow-coated firefighters slowly carried the officer's body out of the wreckage, passing firefighters with their hard hats cradled to their chests and uniformed police officers saluting. The body, which was on the gurney-like basket, was handed off to police officers, who carried it to an ambulance.

The Los Angeles Police Department identified the dead officer as Spree Desha, a 35-year-old resident of Simi Valley. Assistant Police Chief Jim McDonnell said the she had been on the force for seven years.

McDonnell said she had worked in the North Hollywood Division and was most recently assigned to the Office of Operations in downtown Los Angeles "Public service was what she was all about," McDonnell said. "It's a tremendous loss to all of us."

LAPD mourns fellow officer

Eleven other persons were killed and many injured when a passenger train and a freight train collided head-on.

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RIP Officer Desha and the other victims of this accident.

Subscribing Member
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I was working today but didn't make it out to the scene although four of the guys I work with went. They said it was pretty bad, like out of a movie.. Dead people scattered among body parts, including a female LAPD officer in uniform.

Guess when it's your time, it's your time. Be safe out there.

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Hundreds attend funeral of LAPD officer killed in train crash

Investigators say cellphones may have been a factor in the Chatsworth accident and two others.

A police honor guard salutes over the casket of Los Angeles Police Officer Spree Desha, who was killed in the Metrolink train collision, during an honor ceremony following her funeral at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles Thursday, Sept. 18, 2008. (AP Photo/J. Emilio Flores, Pool)

By Rich Connell and Cara Mia DiMassa
The Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES - The state agency responsible for train safety voted unanimously today to direct railroad operators to immediately ban the use of cellphones by on-duty engineers, conductors and other rail workersOfficials with the Public Utilities Commission said the deadly Metrolink crash in Chatsworth last week was at least the third train accident in which the use of cellphones may have been a factor. Twenty-five people died and 135 were injured when a commuter train ran through a warning signal in Chatsworth and collided head-on with a Union Pacific freight train.
Federal investigators said this week that records from Metrolink engineer Robert M. Sanchez's cellphone show he sent and received text messages while on duty Friday. But they have not yet determined whether Sanchez was using his phone at the time of the accident.
"It's extremely unfortunate that it took this terrible Metrolink-UP tragedy to focus our attention on this very serious issue," said commission member Rachelle B. Chong.
Cellphone use would be allowed in emergencies but only after a train was stopped.
"The emphasis will be on making sure the owners of the trains are enforcing this rule," said Richard Clark, a PUC safety director. "We will hold the owners of the trains responsible."
Fines would start at $500 per violation, but could go as high as $20,000.
Officials had already been concerned about cellphone use before last Friday's crash because it appeared to be a factor in a June accident in San Francisco and another in July in Sacramento. Officials said they are depending on rail workers and members of the public to report violations, and may set up a hotline to receive complaints.
As the investigation into the Chatsworth accident's cause continued, one of the victims was remembered today in a funeral at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels as a model police officer, who was compassionate and fair-minded both in and out of uniform.
Los Angeles Police Officer Spree DeSha was someone who "believed duty isn't something you clock on and off," said Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who attended the nearly three-hour service with hundreds of police officers, dignitaries, family members and friends.
DeSha, 35, a seven-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department, was was riding the first car of the Metrolink train in uniform, which she always did, in part to help the conductor in case a passenger caused trouble.
Because she was considered to have died in the line of duty, the funeral began with the arrival of a riderless horse, ended with a pre-recorded "end of watch" broadcast and included a flyover of LAPD helicopters in a "missing-man" formation.
A podium at the front of the cathedral bore DeSha's cap and badge, the latter bent almost in half by the force of the accident. The badge, said LAPD Chief William J. Bratton, was "bent but not broken -- a perfect reflection of Spree." He added that she did not let the chaos and calamity she encountered on the job affect her spirit.
DeSha was "the embodiment of everything we could ask of an individual who puts that badge on their chest," Bratton said.
"Her occupation defined her," said Assistant Chief Jim McDonnell. "It gave her life and it gave her life meaning."
DeSha "had wisdom far beyond her years," said her life partner, Laura Gerritsen, who is also an LAPD officer. "Spree, I hope you are dancing with the angels now," she said, her soft voice breaking.
Outside the cathedral after the ceremony, folded flags were presented to Gerritsen and DeSha's mother, Sha Moran. White doves were released into the air. Gerritsen stood in front of her partner's casket and saluted. Her tears were visible.

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