Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Evidence in Train Crash Pointing to Human Error Engineer in Commuter Train Hit Brakes Just before Fatal Collision

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Evidence in Train Crash Pointing to Human Error Engineer in Commuter Train Hit Brakes Just before Fatal Collision

Article excerpt

The engineer of a fast-moving commuter train applied his emergency brakes a only few seconds before slamming nearly head-on into a Chicago-bound Amtrak train, killing 11 people, federal investigators said Saturday.

The investigators said they are leaning toward attributing the wreck to operator error.

The collision occurred when the Amtrak train, running late, switched tracks to pass a halted freight train.

As the Amtrak train was just starting to swerve back onto its own track, it struck the in-bound commuter train almost head-on.

The lead Amtrak locomotive tore open the commuter train passenger car, and drenched it in misting diesel fuel from the locomotive's ruptured 3,500-gallon belly tanks. The fuel exploded, engulfing the passenger car i n flames.

The commuter train was moving at about 40 mph when it collided with the Capitol Limited, moving the opposite direction at 30 mph, John Goglia of the National Transportation Safety Board said Saturday night.

A few moments earlier the commuter train had been going 63 mph, Goglia said, but the operator slammed on his brakes about 1,100 feet before the crash. The speed limit on that section of track under ordinary conditions is 70 mph, he said, but warning signals should have indicated a reduced speed of 30 mph, Goglia said.

Investigators have not found any problems with the signals, but Goglia said they cannot be fully tested until the wreckage is removed because it is resting on sensors mounted in the track.

The investigation is "moving toward the operator, since we found absolutely no difficulties anywhere else," Goglia said.

Train movement is controlled by red and green signals, and Goglia said determining whether the signals had changed to warn the commuter train is "the critical question."

There is a mechanical recorder which keeps track of the signals, and Goglia said that is being reviewed.

The CSX dispatcher directing train movement is bring brought to Washington from Jacksonville, Fla. …

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