Operator Error Caused Train Crash
WASHINGTON (AP) _ A veteran train engineer’s inattention was to blame for an Amtrak train collision in upstate New York that injured 62 people last winter, federal investigators said Tuesday.
The National Transportation Safety Board said the Federal Railroad Administration should reconsider its policy allowing lone engineers to operate trains without computer systems that can automatically stop trains if a problem is detected.
The crash occurred in February shortly after the Amtrak train left the Syracuse station with 100 passengers and a crew of four. The train was traveling at 57 mph when the brakes were applied and still was moving at 35 mph when it rear-ended a CSXT freight train, investigators said. The speed limit for that section of track is 30 mph.
The engineer, Steven R. Gill of Rensselaer, N.Y., told investigators he was not watching the track as carefully as he should have been because he was fumbling with paperwork.
Gill had a clean record in 30 years of driving trains, including 15 with Amtrak. He has been on paid leave since the crash.
The NTSB said a computerized train control system probably would have prevented the accident. Such systems use computers to monitor a train’s location and speed. For example, if a train exceeds the speed limit, a signal can be sent to the locomotive to automatically apply the brakes.
NTSB has included the systems on its ``most wanted″ list of safety improvements since 1990.
NTSB also recommended that Amtrak ensure that food service appliances are secured so they do not injure passengers or crew. NTSB spokesman Ted Lopatkiewicz said an appliance came loose during the February crash, though it did not injure anyone.
On The Net:
National Transportation Safety Board: http://www.ntsb.gov/