Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Crash Probe Suggests Train Was Speeding

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Crash Probe Suggests Train Was Speeding

Article excerpt

The NJ Transit train that slammed into Hoboken Terminal last week may have been traveling two to three times the posted speed limit, according to early estimates by crash investigators.

That estimate contradicts an earlier statement by the train's engineer, who told investigators he was traveling at precisely the speed limit -- 10 mph -- when he entered the station.

The estimate, provided to The Associated Press by a U.S. official briefed on the investigation, holds that the train was traveling 20 to 30 miles an hour when it barreled into the terminal. It is based on the extensive damage caused by the accident, rather than any eyewitness statements, surveillance videos or data recorders recovered from the scene, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he or she is not authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation.

Meanwhile, the National Transportation Safety Board's probe into the crash entered its most intensive phase Tuesday after investigators finally entered the train's lead car and retrieved data recorders they hope will reveal the accident's cause.

"Now is when we get very, very busy," said Jim Southworth, investigator in charge for the transit safety agency, who entered the front car at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday to remove the train's data and video recorders.

Those recorders are especially important in this case because the data recorder in the rear of the train wasn't functioning at the time of the crash, investigators said. That recorder, also called a "black box," was manufactured in 1995, which is old for such important equipment, Bella Dinh-Zarr, vice chairwoman of the safety board, said over the weekend.

The data and video recorders in the front car were built in 2003 and "appear to be in fairly good shape," Southworth said Tuesday. The recorders arrived at the safety board's headquarters in Washington, D.C., at 3 p.m. Tuesday. It's still too early to know whether they were functioning during the train's final trip, Southworth said, or whether they survived the impact, which left the train's front two cars pinned under the terminal's collapsed roof.

"We expect the recorders will be able to provide the investigators with speed information, throttle positions, braking system information and about 100 other parameters, as well as a video image of the accident," Southworth said. …

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