NTSB in­ves­ti­gat­ing ac­ci­dent on tracks near Union Sta­tion

2 tran­sit of­fi­cers killed by Am­trak train

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - BY JA­SON TIDD

The Na­tional Trans­porta­tion Safety Board is in­ves­ti­gat­ing a fa­tal ac­ci­dent in which two CSX freight train con­duc­tors were struck and killed by an Am­trak train north of Union Sta­tion in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., late Tues­day.

“Our mis­sion is to un­der­stand what hap­pened, why it hap­pened and pre­vent it from hap­pen­ing again,” NTSB mem­ber Earl Weener said Wed­nes­day at a press con­fer­ence. “We have few de­fin­i­tive facts at this early stage.”

The safety of­fi­cial said that dis­patch­ers alerted a CSX freight train from Bal­ti­more that a de­tec­tor was trig­gered Tues­day night, in­di­cat­ing a pos­si­ble prob­lem with one or more of the train’s wheels. De­tec­tors are placed about ev­ery 25 miles along the tracks.

Just be­fore 11:30 p.m. north of Union Sta­tion, the train’s con­duc­tor and a con­duc­tor-trainee stopped the freight train and got out onto the tracks to check the wheels. They crossed onto an “ac­tive” track, where they were struck and killed by an Am­trak pas­sen­ger train from Bos­ton, Mr. Weener said.

A CSX en­gi­neer re­mained on the train and was not in­jured. A CSX freight crew usu­ally con­sists of one con­duc­tor and one en­gi­neer.

No other em­ploy­ees and none of the Am­trak train’s 121 pas­sen­gers were in­jured.

“The in­ves­ti­ga­tion process is nec­es­sar­ily com­plex,” Mr. Weener said. “We don’t de­ter­mine the prob­a­ble cause of an ac­ci­dent while on scene, or in the ini­tial phase of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, nor do we spec­u­late on what the causes of the ac­ci­dent were at this point.”

The ac­ci­dent oc­curred near the 1200 block of New York Ave. NE, where two CSX tracks lie par­al­lel to two Am­trak tracks. The speed limit com­ing in is 95 mph, but the Am­trak train was slow­ing down, as the speed limit drops to 30 mph ap­proach­ing Union Sta­tion, of­fi­cials said.

A spokesman for the Fed­eral Rail­road Ad­min­is­tra­tion, which is as­sist­ing in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, said there are no fed­eral reg­u­la­tions gov­ern­ing ac­tions of train crew mem­bers in such cir­cum­stances.

CSX spokesman Rob Doolit­tle said it is typ­i­cal for train crew mem­bers to exit and in­spect a prob­lem once alerted.

“When the crew is alerted to a po­ten­tial me­chan­i­cal is­sue with the train, they exit the train to in­spect the train, to iden­tify and re­solve the is­sue,” Mr. Doolit­tle said.

The com­pany said it will not re­lease the names or other in­for­ma­tion about the em­ploy­ees.

“At this time the names of the in­volved em­ploy­ees are be­ing with­held out of re­spect for the pri­vacy of their fam­i­lies,” CSX said in a state­ment.

The NTSB in­ves­ti­ga­tion will look at the con­di­tion of the tracks, op­er­a­tional as­pects of both trains and the dis­patch­ers, hu­man fac­tors and per­for­mance, me­chan­i­cal func­tion­ing and dig­i­tal record­ings of the in­ci­dent.

The con­di­tion of the train’s wheels and brakes will be a part of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, NTSB spokesman Eric Weiss said.

“Ev­ery in­ves­ti­ga­tion is dif­fer­ent, but gen­er­ally they take a year or more to fully come up to a prob­a­ble cause find­ing,” Mr. Weiss said.

The NTSB in­ves­ti­gated on-scene overnight. One track was re­opened at 9:30 a.m., but pass­ing trains re­mained un­der a 10 mph speed re­stric­tion.

Am­trak an­nounced on Twit­ter that riders can ex­pect resid­ual de­lays af­ter can­cel­ing morn­ing rush-hour trains be­tween the District and Philadel­phia.

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