NTSB Issues Final Report on NY Railroad Death

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recently issued its final report regarding the 2017 death of a railroad roadway worker who was struck and killed by a train in Queens Village, New York (Improperly Used Train Approach Warning Led to New York Railroad Worker’s Death).

The accident happened when a Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) train encountered a crew of roadway workers, accompanied by a watchman, in the Queens Interlocking. Upon observing the train’s approach, the watchman sounded a handheld horn, shouted to the other workers, and raised a paddle to signal the LIRR’s engineer to activate the train’s horn. Despite these warnings, a worker stepped into the path of the oncoming train, which was traveling 78 mph, and was killed.

In its report, the NTSB found the train approach warning method especially dangerous for the crew in this situation for the following reasons:

  • multiple tracks at the interlocking
  • trains operating at high speeds in both directions
  • limited areas to clear trains
  • increased train traffic due to the Belmont Stakes

The NTSB concluded that the watchman should have provided timely warning of approaching trains so that all workers could completely clear the tracks before the train’s arrival.

Using the train approach warning method, LIRR management did not properly assess the hazards the roadway workers were exposed to while conducting their tasks,” NTSB Chairman Robert L. Sumwalt said. “If adopted, the recommendations highlighted in this report can help to mitigate the risks associated with this work and provide better protection to workers across all railroads.”

Overtime work schedules without proper mitigation of workers’ risk of fatigue also contributed to the accident. The deceased and the watchman had both worked consecutive overtime shifts during the 48-hour period prior to the accident.

The NTSB issued five safety recommendations:

  • roadway worker protection
  • roadway worker on-track safety briefings
  • management oversight
  • FRA oversight
  • worker fatigue

The NTSB is an independent federal agency charged with determining the probable cause of transportation accidents, promoting transportation safety, and assisting victims of transportation accidents and their families. Their final report can be found at https://go.usa.gov/xvMcv.

If you have been injured in a railroad accident, it is critical that you hire an experienced attorney. Please call DBJ today at 1-800-875-5972 for a free consultation.

NTSB Updates Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recently updated the list of safety recommendations from its 2019-2020 Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements (8 Safety Recommendations Closed from NTSB’s 2019-2020 Most Wanted List). The publishing of the updated list followed the closure of eight safety recommendations.

Four safety recommendations were closed with acceptable action taken, one was closed with acceptable alternate action taken, one was closed with a status of exceeds recommended action, and another was regrettably closed with unacceptable action taken. One additional safety recommendation was closed because it was superseded by a subsequent recommendation that remains open.

Closing safety recommendations with acceptable action taken, resulting in improved transportation safety, is the goal of issuing and advocating for a safety recommendation,” said NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt. “Our safety recommendations are founded in the science of our accident investigations and are designed to prevent similar future accidents. Transportation safety is improved when recipients of our safety recommendations take acceptable action. While I’m pleased to highlight this success, I also have to highlight how much more work remains to be done.”

The closed safety recommendations addressed the following pipeline, highway, and aviation safety issues:

  • pipeline dent repairs and leak detection
  • incorrect installation of mechanical tapping tee assemblies
  • passenger safety briefings regarding seat belt use in limousines
  • NTSB access to all positive drug and alcohol test results and refusal determinations conducted under DOT testing requirements
  • use of the Aviation Digital Data Service Weather Tool as an official weather product for helicopter emergency medical services
  • management of the risk of operating amphibious passenger vehicles in compliance with U.S. Coast Guard guidance
  • establishment of an ongoing program to monitor, evaluate, report on, and continuously improve fatigue management programs implemented by motor carriers

The NTSB is an independent federal agency charged with promoting transportation safety. Through its 30th annual Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements, the NTSB has identified safety improvements across all modes of transportation that will prevent accidents, minimize injuries, and save lives.

If you have been injured in an accident involving any form of transportation, it is critical that you hire an experienced attorney. Please call DBJ today at 1-800-875-5972 for a free consultation.

NTSB Announces Cause of Fatal Amtrak Crash

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recently announced the cause of the fatal Amtrak passenger train derailment in Dupont, Washington, on December 18, 2017 (Inadequate Planning, Insufficient Training Led to Fatal Amtrak Train Derailment). According to the NTSB, the train careened off a railroad bridge onto a crowded highway due to insufficient training of a locomotive engineer and inadequate mitigation of a dangerous curve.

On its initial run on the Point Defiance Bypass connecting Seattle and Portland, an Amtrak Cascades train approached a 30-mph curve on an overpass at approximately 78 miles per hour.    The train derailed and fell onto an interstate highway, landing on eight vehicles. Three train passengers were killed and 65 more people were injured.

This is the third fatal overspeed passenger train derailment the NTSB has investigated since 2013,” NTSB Chairman Robert L. Sumwalt said. “All three have the same thing in common: each could have been prevented by Positive Train Control. This is why Positive Train Control is on the NTSB’s 2019-2020 Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements. The deadline for full implementation of PTC is rapidly approaching and the NTSB continues to advocate for the expedited implementation of this life-saving technology.”

During a public meeting in May of 2019, the NTSB noted that the Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority did not account for the danger associated with a curve requiring such a large decrease in speed. Positive Train Control, technology specifically designed to prevent overspeed derailments, was not employed by the railroad.

Although not required by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), the train was equipped with an image recorder that allowed investigators to analyze the activities of crewmembers prior to the accident. The NTSB issued 26 safety recommendations to the FRA, the Washington State Department of Transportation, Oregon Department of Transportation, Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority, and the United States Department of Defense. 

Although the NTSB is fulfilling part of its duties by investigating these railroad accidents and issuing safety recommendations, it is long past time to require more proactive measures from the railroads themselves. The railroad industry’s focus on maximizing their own profits should not stop the NTSB from requiring them to install Positive Train Control on all of their trains.

If you have been injured in a railroad accident, it is critical that you hire an experienced attorney. Please call DBJ today at 1-800-875-5972 for a free consultation.

NTSB Finds Probable Cause of House Explosion

In a press release issued on February 27, 2019, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) announced that the probable cause of a fatal 2017 explosion in Millersville, Pennsylvania, was a faulty gas connection that allowed natural gas to leak into a single-family residence (Improperly Installed Natural Gas Connection Cause of 2017 House Explosion). The explosion destroyed the home and caused substantial damage to six nearby houses, killing one person and injuring three others.

The investigation found problems with the installation of the connection, known as a tapping tee, between the gas main and the individual gas line that connects to the residence. The NTSB determined that the tee assembly involved in the accident was improperly installed because a locking sleeve that served as an attachment between the tee and the gas main was not securely attached to the main.  

According to the NTSB, the failure to completely attach the locking sleeve created additional stress on four nylon bolts designed to hold the tee assembly in place, eventually resulting in fractures in the bolts. The nylon bolt fractures, combined with the improper tee installation, permitted gas to seep from the tee assembly.

As a result of its initial investigation into the cause of the Millersville explosion, in June 2018 the NTSB issued four safety recommendations to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and Honeywell International, the manufacturer of the tee. The NTSB intended the recommendations to help avert future disasters from faulty tapping tee installations in natural gas distribution systems.

Federal law gives the NTSB the authority to establish the probable cause of a pipeline accident resulting in a fatality or substantial property damage, but their investigations are not conducted for the purpose of determining any party’s rights or liabilities. If you have been injured in a natural gas explosion, it is essential that you hire an experienced attorney to protect your rights. Please call DBJ today at 1-800-875-5972 for a free consultation.

NTSB Releases Gas Explosion Report

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recently released a report on the findings of its investigation into a 2016 fatal explosion in downtown Canton, Illinois (Federal report: 2016 Canton gas explosion caused by contractor). The report indicated that a contractor was in violation of state law when it caused a natural gas rupture and subsequent explosion that killed one person and injured 11 others.

Sure Shot Communications workers were attempting to install underground fiber-optic cable when they inadvertently severed a gas line near the Opera House Professional Center annex, which later exploded. Sure Shot failed to excavate a concrete sidewalk prior to drilling, despite an Illinois law requirement that drilling must be inspected visually while in progress.

Unfortunately, it has come to light that this tragedy was entirely avoidable and occurred as the result of the circumvention of state laws that were put in place to keep our communities safe,” said U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL).

The NTSB’s report also found that:

Sure Shot and Ameren, an Illinois gas delivery company, failed to evacuate the area adequately after the discovery of the gas line breach.

Sure Shot and Mid Century Communications did not have a written contract for work, a written project plan, or an emergency response plan.

The leader of the Sure Shot team was in his first day of field work.

No one from Sure Shot or Ameren called the 911 emergency telephone number.

I was shocked at the lack of training the people had there,” said Canton Mayor Kent McDowell. “That’s the first thing that jumped out at me right away.”

Rep. Bustos’ office had been attempting to expedite the process for months, but the NTSB’s report was not released until more than two years after the incident. “My hope is that the conclusion of this investigation will help provide clarity about what happened, bring closure to the community, and help them move past this tragic loss,” said Bustos.

These kinds of senseless tragedies involving gas line explosions are becoming far too common.

It is imperative that the NTSB and other safety agencies ensure that all laws and regulations are followed at these potentially deadly work sites.

If you have been injured in a natural gas explosion, it is essential that you hire an experienced attorney to protect your rights. Please call DBJ today at 1-800-875-5972 for a free consultation.

NTSB Holds Hearings on Amtrak Crashes

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recently held investigative hearings to review the circumstances that led to fatal Amtrak railroad accidents in Washington and South Carolina (NTSB hearing focuses on railroad safety following two fatal Amtrak crashes). Federal safety investigators sought to identify safety improvements that could prevent future railroad accidents.

The hearings were not intended to determine the cause of these specific accidents, but instead to give the NTSB the opportunity to gather information to help prevent future tragedies. “We are all here for the same reason – to stop these,” said NTSB member T. Bella Dinh-Zarr.

In December 2017, an Amtrak train on its first run from Seattle to Portland crashed on a sharp curve, killing three and injuring over 100. The train was traveling 78 mph in a 30 mph zone. Then in February 2018, an accident involving an Amtrak passenger train and a CSX freight train killed two and injured 116 because of a misaligned railroad switch.

After the accidents, the NTSB recommended that federal railroad officials issue emergency orders mandating trains to slow down when signals are disabled and to verify that switches are in the right place before continuing. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has yet to act on the order. “We are curious to know where the FRA is going with this,” said NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt. “We do not believe that just having people on the ground to verify that [the switch] is in the proper position is the be all end all.”

Sumwalt questioned whether railroad companies were more interested in profits than passenger and employee welfare, noting that shareholder reports emphasize efficiency and earnings and ignore safety. Amtrak responded that it is committed to safety. “One of the lessons we’ve learned is establishing systemwide standards,” said Justin Meko, Amtrak’s vice president for safety, compliance, and training.

It is certainly no secret that giant corporations such as railroad companies regularly choose profits over the safety of the American people, but it is encouraging that the NTSB is at least attempting to make them change their focus after these horrible accidents. If you have been injured in a railroad accident, it is vital that you hire an experienced attorney. Please call DBJ

NTSB Releases Preliminary Duck Boat Report

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recently released a preliminary report of its investigation of the July 19, 2018, duck boat accident that killed 17 at Table Lock Lake in Missouri (NTSB preliminary report: Duck boat sank in 15 feet of water on Table Rock Lake). The NTSB report found that the duck boat sank in 15 feet of water during a storm that produced winds in excess of 70 miles per hour.

The duck boat was a Stretch Duck 7, a Coast Guard-inspected passenger vessel, and Table Rock Lake is a navigable waterway. The accident was declared a major marine casualty by the United States Coast Guard, and the NTSB was named the lead federal investigative agency.

No conclusions were reached in the preliminary report and a number of significant questions remain:

  • Why was the boat on the lake, despite indications from the National Weather Service that a severe storm was imminent?
  • Why weren’t the passengers wearing life jackets?
  • Had the Table Rock Lake duck boat adopted any of the NTSB’s previous safety recommendations?

A number of electronic devices, including a video recording system, cell phones, and a camera, were recovered from the boat by the highway patrol dive team and shipped to NTSB labs. The NTSB also conducted 33 interviews on scene with witnesses, vessel operators, inspectors, and duck boat company officials. Weather data, including wind speeds during the storm, was collected from local weather stations.

The NTSB report indicated that the duck boat was in the water 20 minutes after the issuance of a severe thunderstorm warning by the National Weather Service. The boat encountered winds of over 70 mph, in direct contradiction of the Coast Guard’s recommendation that duck boats should not go on water in winds exceeding 35 mph.

There is no official timetable for a final report from the NTSB, but it is essential that the operators of these amphibious vehicles be held accountable for the safety of their passengers. Nearly 20 years after the NTSB issued safety recommendations to the Coast Guard, states, manufacturers, operators, and service providers following a 1999 accident involving an Arkansas duck boat, we are still experiencing these preventable tragedies.

If you or a loved one have been injured in a public transportation accident, it is vital that you hire an experienced attorney. Please call DBJ today at 1-800-875-5972 for a free consultation.

NTSB Announces Probable Cause of Deadly Mississippi Railroad Crossing Accident

In a recent press release, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) made a finding regarding the probable cause of the March 7, 2017 railroad crossing accident in Biloxi, Mississippi (Failure of Railroad, City, to Address Grade Crossing Hazards is Probable Cause of Fatal Mississippi Crash). The report found that CSX Transportation and the city of Biloxi failed to mitigate known safety hazards at the grade crossing where the accident occurred.

A chartered ECHO Transportation passenger bus was transporting 49 senior citizens to a Biloxi casino when it became grounded on a “high profile” grade crossing. The engineer of the approaching CSX freight applied emergency braking, but the train crashed into the motor coach at 19 mph, killing four and injuring 37.

The Biloxi grade crossing was reconstructed in 1977, but dates back to at least 1870. The crossing has an unusually high vertical profile, which makes vehicles with low ground clearance, such as buses and trucks, more susceptible to being grounded on the tracks.

Since maintenance work that made the vertical profile even higher several years ago, there have been at least 23 vehicle groundings at the railroad crossing site. Both CSX Transportation and the City of Biloxi knew about the alarming number of dangerous incidents, but neither made any effort to reduce the risk of a tragic accident.

“This tragedy was preceded by numerous unheeded warnings in the three years leading up to it,” NTSB Chairman Robert L. Sumwalt said. “They came in the form of known groundings of other vehicles at the very same grade crossing where the fatal crash occurred. Warnings call for action.”

The NTSB recommended the development of standards for determining when a high-profile grade crossing should be altered or shut down, and asked for increased communication between all the parties involved in maintaining railroad crossing safety. “It will take concerted, coordinated action to proactively address the safety challenge posed by high-profile grade crossings,” Sumwalt said. “And today’s findings and recommendations will provide regulators, policy makers and planners with the tools to do just that.”

It is imperative for the NTSB to continue to hold the railroads responsible for these preventable tragedies because the industry has proven throughout its history that it will do nothing to increase safety unless required by law. If you have been injured in a railroad accident, it is vital that you hire an experienced attorney. Please call DBJ today at 1-800-875-5972 for a free consultation.