NTSB: First black box re­cov­ered from train crash not work­ing

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - STATE NEWS - By Michael Bal­samo

One event recorder re­cov­ered so far from the new Jersey Tran­sit com­muter train that crashed in Hobo­ken killing one and in­jur­ing more than 100 more was not func­tion­ing on the day of the ac­ci­dent, of­fi­cials said Sun­day.

The lo­co­mo­tive’s recorder has in­for­ma­tion on train speed.

Na­tional Trans­porta­tion Safety Board vice chair T. Bella Dinh-Zarr said she’s hope­ful the data recorder in the cab con­trol car in the front of the train is func­tional. In­ves­ti­ga­tors haven’t been able to ex­tract that recorder be­cause it’s un­der a col­lapsed sec­tion of the train sta­tion’s roof.

Dinh-Zarr said the train’s en­gi­neer told in­ves­ti­ga­tors the train was op­er­at­ing prop­erly be­fore it crashed Thurs­day morn­ing. The en­gi­neer also said the train was op­er­at­ing at 10 mph as it ap­proached the sta­tion. He told in­ves­ti­ga­tors he has no mem­ory of the ac­ci­dent.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors said the con­duc­tor said he didn’t see any­thing un­usual about the speed of the train.

The sig­nals on the tracks lead­ing to Hobo­ken Ter­mi­nal ap­pear to be work­ing nor­mally and of­fi­cials com­pleted a walk­ing in­spec­tion of the track, find­ing noth­ing that would have af­fected the per­for­mance of the train, the NTSB said in an up­date Satur­day. In­ves­ti­ga­tors have ob­tained video from other trains that were in­side the train sta­tion when the crash oc­curred.

Signs posted at a New Jersey Tran­sit main­te­nance fa­cil­ity in Hobo­ken, dated Fe­bru­ary, said there had been 10 in­ci­dents in­volv­ing trains in the prior two months, in­clud­ing five de­rail­ments. The sign said the “se­ri­ous in­ci­dents re­flect a dan­ger­ous trend” and that the main cause of the in­ci­dents ap­peared to be caused by hu­man er­ror.

A spokesman for New Jersey Tran­sit didn’t im­me­di­ately re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

New Jersey Tran­sit trains have been in­volved in more than 150 ac­ci­dents that caused more than $4.8 mil­lion in dam­age to tracks or equip­ment since 2011, and the com­muter rail has paid more than $500,000 to set­tle safety vi­o­la­tions, ac­cord­ing to fed­eral data.

Fed­eral Rail­road Ad­min­is­tra­tion in­for­ma­tion shows that NJ Tran­sit set­tled 183 safety vi­o­la­tions — rang­ing from em­ployee drug and al­co­hol use to vi­o­la­tions of rail­road op­er­at­ing rules or prac­tices — since Jan. 1, 2011. The set­tle­ment pay­ments in­clude about $70,000 for more than a dozen safety vi­o­la­tions in 2014 and 2015. Sta­tis­tics for the cur­rent year are not yet avail­able.

Months be­fore Thurs­day’s deadly com­muter train crash in Hobo­ken, New Jersey, fed­eral rail of­fi­cials found dozens of vi­o­la­tions dur­ing an au­dit fo­cus­ing on NJ Tran­sit’s safety and op­er­a­tions, a U.S. of­fi­cial con­firmed Satur­day.

The of­fi­cial, who was fa­mil­iar with the rail­road ad­min­is­tra­tion au­dit, spoke to The As­so­ci­ated Press on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause the of­fi­cial wasn’t au­tho­rized to speak pub­licly about an on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion. The rail­road ad­min­is­tra­tion be­gan an au­dit in June af­ter notic­ing an uptick in rail in­ci­dents and found “dozens of safety vi­o­la­tions” that needed to be fixed im­me­di­ately, the of­fi­cial said. The com­muter rail agency was fined as a re­sult of the au­dit, the of­fi­cial said, adding that fed­eral agen­cies are con­tin­u­ing to work with the rail­road to en­sure com­pli­ance with fed­eral rail safety guide­lines.

There were 25 ac­ci­dents in 2015 and 10 in the first seven months of 2016, but none caused in­juries or death, fed­eral data showed. Most of the in­ci­dents oc­curred at low speeds and more than half were in train yards.

As­so­ci­ated Press writ­ers Michael R. Sisak in Philadel­phia and Bruce Ship­kowski in Tren­ton con­trib­uted to this re­port.

WIL­LIAM SUN — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

In a photo pro­vided by Wil­liam Sun, peo­ple ex­am­ine the wreck­age of a New Jersey Tran­sit com­muter train that crashed into the train sta­tion dur­ing the morn­ing rush hour in Hobo­ken,, N.J., on Thurs­day, killing one woman and in­jur­ing dozens.

NA­TIONAL TRANS­PORTA­TION SAFETY BOARD PHOTO

In this photo pro­vided by the Na­tional Trans­porta­tion Safety Board on Sept. 30, the event recorder re­trieved from the lo­co­mo­tive in­volved in the fa­tal Sept. 29 train ac­ci­dent in Hobo­ken, N.J. is shown. One per­son died and more than 100 were in­jured when a fast mov­ing New Jersey Tran­sit train ran through a bar­rier, be­came air­borne and crashed into the train sta­tion.

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