Sci-tech

Amtrak Engineer Didn't See Speed Sign Before Deadly Derailment

Amtrak Engineer Didn't See Speed Sign Before Deadly Derailment

The engineer controlling an Amtrak train that derailed in Washington state in December, killing three people, told investigators he didn't realize he was coming up on a curve until it was too late.

The engineer told investigators he felt rested at the start of his shift, and the conductor in the auto with him told investigators the engineer seemed alert.

Three people died and dozens were injured in the December 18 crash of the inaugural run of a new, faster bypass route.

The 55-year-old engineer told investigators he had planned to brake well before the 30-mph curve where the train sailed off its tracks but didn't see signs warning of the approach. Seventy-two passengers were also injured in the crash.

The train entered the 30 miles per hour curve traveling 78 miles per hour according the data recorder retrieved from the lead locomotive.

In an NTSB summary of interviews with the engineer and conductor on duty during the deadly crash, the engineer said he knew the curve with a 30 miles per hour speed restriction was at milepost 19.8 and he planned to start braking about a mile before reaching it.

On the topic of training, the unnamed locomotive engineer said he would not have gotten behind the throttle if he had any reservations about his readiness to operate the train on the new, higher speed routing alongside I-5.

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New details released by the the National Transportation Safety Board Thursday revealed more about the last moments on the Amtrak passenger train that derailed on its way to Portland, and the first from the engineer's perspective.

The passenger train carrying 83 passengers and crew was traveling almost 80 miles an hour when it went off the tracks on a curve where the speed limit was 30 miles an hour, landing on an interstate below. Both said they felt well-rested.

The conductor was in the lead locomotive to learn the territory of the route. NTSB investigators have said that an automated braking system known as Positive Train Control, which is required on railroads by the end of this year but wasn't yet working on that section of track, would have prevented the accident.

The union representing the engineer, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, said it could not comment on the NTSB's account of the interview because the union is a party to the ongoing investigation.

NTSB officials said they are continuing to interview more people about the derailment, adding that they are also reviewing video and data recorder information from the derailment.

The investigation is expected to take up to two years.


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