Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak Train 91 collision’

NTSB releases report on Amtrak/CSX collision

On February 4, 2018, southbound Amtrak train 91, operating on a track warrant, diverted from the main track through a hand-thrown switch into a siding and collided head-on with stationary CSX Transportation local freight train F777 03 on the CSX Columbia Subdivision in Cayce, S.C.

The engineer and conductor of the Amtrak train died as a result of the collision and at least 92 passengers and crewmembers on the Amtrak train were transported to medical facilities. The engineer of the stopped CSX train had exited the lead locomotive before the Amtrak train entered the siding, ran to safety, and was not injured. The conductor of the CSX lead locomotive saw the Amtrak train approaching in the siding and ran to the back of locomotive. The conductor was thrown off the locomotive and sustained minor injuries.

The normal method of train operation on the subdivision was a traffic control system with wayside signals. Signal indications authorize movement in either direction. On the day before the accident, CSX signal personnel suspended the traffic control signal system to install updated traffic control system components for implementing positive train control (PTC) on the subdivision. During the suspension, scheduled to last through February 4, 2018, dispatchers would use track warrants to move trains through absolute blocks in the work territory.

National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigators inspected the track structure, signal system and mechanical equipment; collected and are examining records for operations, signal systems, mechanical equipment, and track and engineering; and interviewed train crewmembers, train dispatchers and other personnel from CSX and Amtrak. In addition, investigators are reviewing the emergency response to the accident. Members of the NTSB investigative team traveled to Jacksonville, Fla., to investigate the dispatching aspects of the accident, to test the CSX signal system and to conduct additional interviews.

While on-scene, NTSB investigators located and removed the undamaged event data recorder from the destroyed Amtrak locomotive. The event data recorder was successfully downloaded and an initial review of the data revealed the following information:

  • From the train’s last stop, the maximum speed reached 57 mph, which was below the 59 mph limit allowed under signal suspension rules.
  • About 7 seconds before the end of the recording, the train was moving at 56 mph and the train’s horn was activated for 3 seconds.
  • The brake pipe pressure began decreasing 2 seconds later.
  • The following second, the throttle transitioned from full throttle to idle, while the train was moving at 54 mph.
  • The engineer induced emergency braking one second later, while the train was moving at a speed of 53 mph.
  • The recording ended 2 seconds later, as the train’s air braking system was approaching maximum braking effort and the train’s speed was 50 mph.

The Amtrak locomotive’s forward-facing video recorder hard drive was recovered and downloaded. The initial review of the recording indicated that it ended prior to the collision. NTSB engineers are attempting additional forensic efforts to determine if additional information can be recovered. Other investigative efforts included the download of information from the forward-facing video recorder and the extraction of the event recorder from the CSX lead locomotive.

Parties to the investigation include the Federal Railroad Administration, CSX, Amtrak, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen; International Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers-Transportation Division; Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, and the State of South Carolina Office of Regulatory Staff.

In response to this accident, the NTSB issued an urgent recommendation requesting that the Federal Railroad Administration issue an emergency order providing instructions for railroads to follow when signal suspensions are in effect and a switch has been reported relined for a main track.

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These are the preliminary findings of the NTSB and will be either supplemented or corrected during the course of the investigation.

 

NTSB Figure – A view of the accident scene

NTSB issues update on Amtrak Train 91 collision

Sumwalt

Robert Sumwalt, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), reported some preliminary findings Monday afternoon of his agency’s investigation into the Amtrak-CSX train collision that occurred Feb. 4 near Cayce, S.C.

The train had 139 passengers and eight crewmembers on board. The engineer and conductor in the cab of the locomotive were killed and six passengers remain hospitalized, two in critical condition. SMART TD conductor Michael Cella of Local 30 in Florida was one of two Amtrak crewmembers killed in the accident.

Based upon the event data recorders located within the Amtrak locomotive, Sumwalt said, Amtrak Train 91 was not speeding at the time of the collision.

He said Amtrak’s data recorder had the following information:

  • The train horn was sounded for three seconds at the seven second mark before the collision.
  • The train was traveling at a maximum speed of 57 mph in a 59-mph zone.
  • The engineer moved the throttle to idle and had applied the emergency brakes before the collision.
  • At the time of the collision, the train had reduced its speed to 50 mph.

Sumwalt stated that the reason for the 59-mph speed limit in the area was attributable to track signals being inoperable due to CSX performing upgrades to their track signal system to switch over to positive train control (PTC). He said a track warrant system was in place, and Amtrak had been given clearance to operate in the area.

As previously reported by Sumwalt, a switch had been thrown to allow a CSX train to back into a side track. The switch had never been released back to its original position, and the Amtrak train entered the track where the CSX freight train was parked instead of continuing on the main track.

Sumwalt said that the CSX dispatcher had been notified that the siding operation had been completed and so gave Amtrak clearance to proceed through.

Typically, when the dispatcher is given notification that such a proceeding has been completed, it means that the switch has been moved back into position. The NTSB is investigating as to why the switch had been locked into position for the siding.

Sumwalt reported that interviews with CSX’s engineer, conductor, trainmaster and dispatcher had been conducted Monday along with some of Amtrak’s crew.

Additional interviews are planned for Tuesday. No information about the content of the interviews was released.

The information provided in Monday’s press conference is considered preliminary, and no conclusions should or can be drawn until the NTSB’s investigation is complete and official causes are released by the agency.