Safety Board: Engineer Remarked on Train Speed 6 Seconds Before Crash
U.S. investigators said Friday that the engineer of a passenger train that derailed this week near Seattle remarked six seconds before the accident that the train was going too fast.
Investigators said Friday that the engineer appeared to apply the brakes, but did not apply the emergency brakes before Monday’s derailment, which killed three people.
The National Transportation Safety Board released its latest findings Friday after retrieving and reviewing information from the train’s data recorder and video cameras.
“About six seconds prior to the derailment, the engineer made a comment regarding an over speed condition,” the safety board said in a statement.
It said video from the train shows that the engineer did not appear to be using a cellphone or other electronic device just before the accident.
The safety board said the locomotive was recorded traveling at 126 kilometers per hour (78 mph) when the train derailed; some cars tumbled from a bridge onto an interstate highway below, hitting two semitrailer trucks and five other vehicles.
The posted speed limit at that part of the tracks is 48 kph (30 mph).
The train was carrying 85 passengers and crew members as it made its inaugural run along a new, faster route between Seattle, Washington, and Portland, Oregon.
In addition to those killed, local officials said, more than 100 others were injured. Some motorists on the highway were injured but none died, authorities said.
The train engineer was among those injured in the accident, and investigators have said they plan to speak with him soon.
The safety board said its full investigation could take more than a year.
Washington state transportation officials said the section of track where the derailment took place had been outfitted with a safety system known as positive train control, which can slow or stop a train. But the system was “not yet operational or certified for use.”
Congress mandated that the nation’s railroads implement positive train control after a series of accidents. The legislation calls for the safety upgrades to be completed by the end of 2018, after the railroads won a three-year delay from the original 2015 deadline.
In May 2015, an Amtrak train derailed in Philadelphia as it went into a curve at more than double the posted speed limit. Eight people died in that accident, which investigators blamed on the engineer being distracted by radio conversations between trains and dispatchers about trains being hit by rocks.