Police claim 26-year-old Manuel Alvarez, who they have arrested, deliberately parked his car on the track in a suicide bid.

But it’s alleged he changed his mind, climbed out and left his car on the track and escaped unhurt.

“This whole incident was started by a deranged individual who was suicidal,” said Glendale Police Chief Randy Adams

“He was intent at that time on taking his own life but changed his mind. He exited the vehicle and stood by as a southbound Metrolink train struck his vehicle, causing the train to derail and strike the northbound train.”

The Associated Press reported Mr Alvarez had also tried to slash his wrists and had stabbed himself.

The accident happened at the height of the morning rush hour in the Los Angeles suburb of Glendale.

After hitting the car, one double decker commuter train, which was bound for Los Angeles’ Union Station, left the tracks and jack-knifed into the path of an oncoming commuter train heading in the opposite direction.

Both trains landed on their sides, sending passengers tumbling down the aisles.

One of the stricken trains then side-swiped a stationary freight train that was parked on a side-track.

“I heard a noise. It got louder and louder,” said passenger Diane Brady.

“And next thing I knew the train tilted, everyone was screaming and I held onto a pole for dear life. I held on for what seemed like a week and a half, it seemed. It was a complete nightmare.”

“It sounded like thunder,” said Karen Mendoza, an employee at a nearby store who called emergency services when she heard the accident.

Some passengers had to be cut from the wreckage, which was strewn over a wide area.

Others were forced to jump to safety from the burning upper decks of railway carriages that caught fire in the impact.

At least 89 people were rushed to hospital as a hundreds of rescuers and convoys of ambulances flooded the crash scene.

Fire fighters said around 200 people, mostly walking wounded, were examined by medical staff at the scene.

Most of the injuries suffered by victims were “crush-type” wounds similar to those that occur in car crashes, with many suffering head, chest and abdominal injuries.

It was the worst rail accident in the United States since March 15, 1999, when a train hit a truck and derailed, killing 11 people and injuring more than 100.

Police say they’re expecting to charge Mr Alvarez with 11 counts of murder.

“You don’t put your car on the track and put yourself in harm’s way and all these passengers in harm’s way,” Los Angeles Sheriff Lee Baca, one of whose deputies was among the dead, told the AFP news agency.

“This is a complete outrage.”

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