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.

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