May 24, 2013

NTSB issues Metro North derailment investigation update

The National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) go-team departed Bridgeport, Conn., on Thursday after completing the on-scene phase of the investigation into the May 17 derailment and collision of two Metro-North trains and will now begin to analyze the information gathered.

NTSB investigators have collected photos, video, data, reports and records, and other evidence; completed mechanical inspections of the railcars, the track and signal system; interviewed several Metro-North employees, witnesses and first responders; and thoroughly documented the accident site.

The investigative group focusing on the track has learned from inspection reports that in April, maintenance work was done in the area of the derailment of the eastbound train. The records revealed that a joint bar, used to join two sections of rail together, was cracked and that it was repaired by Metro-North personnel. Sections of rail in the area of the derailment have been removed and shipped to the NTSB materials laboratory in Washington, D.C. for further examination. In addition, Metro-North is conducting an inspection and inventory of all the joint bars on its main line tracks.

Initial information obtained from onboard event recorders indicates that the eastbound train derailed, came to a stop, and was struck about 20 seconds later by the westbound train. With regard to the westbound train, information from the recorders indicates that the westbound train engineer applied the emergency brakes prior to striking the eastbound train.

During an interview with the eastbound train engineer, he informed NTSB investigators that he saw what he described as an unusual condition on the track as he approached the Interstate 95 overpass. He also stated that the train came to a stop before being struck by the westbound train.

The Metro-North trains involved in this accident were traveling on two separate but parallel tracks. The collision occurred after the eastbound train derailed. Because the trains were not traveling on a single track, it is not believed that positive train control would have prevented the accident.            

To read additional reporting from the AP, click here

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