Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak derailments’

Empire Builder Derails in Montana on July 29

June 8, 2020

One passenger and three crew members were treated at a hospital and several others suffered minors injured in a May 29 derailment of Amtrak’s westbound Empire near Bainville, Montana.

The derailment occurred after the train struck a tractor at a rural crossing. The driver of the tractor was killed.

The collision caused a fire in the lead P42DC. The trailing unit and most of the eight cars left the rails but did not overturn.

No. 7/27 was traveling an estimated 75 miles per hour at the time of the collision, which closed the BNSF mainline for several hours.

Court Rules Amtrak Engineer Can be Tried on Charges Stemming From Fatal Derailment

May 15, 2020

A Pennsylvania appeals court has ruled that an Amtrak locomotive engineer involved in a 2015 derailment that left eight dead can be tried criminally for the deaths and injuries.

Charges against Brandon Bostian had been dismissed last July but a state Superior Court Judge on Thursday ruled that that dismissal was based on fact-finding that should happen during a trial.

A Common Pleas Court judge last year ruled Bostian’s behavior before the crash did not rise to criminal recklessness.

The trial court judge had accepted a contention by the defendant’s attorney that Bostian had become confused about where he was when he accelerated the speed of his train without realizing a curve was ahead of him.

However, Superior Court Judge Victor Stabile said that contention should be evaluated in a trial, not by a judge in a pretrial hearing.

Stabile ruled that a trial court judge’s role in a pre-trial proceeding is to determine whether the state presented enough evidence to warrant a trial.

The appeals court judge ruled that prosecutors had met that burden.

An attorney for Bostian said he would appeal the ruling enabling his client to go to trial on criminal charges.

Investigators have said Northeast Regional No. 188 was traveling at 106 mph, more than twice the posted speed limit, into a curve in Port Richmond north of Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station.

The subsequent derailment resulted in more than 150 injuries.

The Pennsylvania Attorney General has filed 216 counts of reckless endangerment, one count of causing a catastrophe, and eight counts of involuntary manslaughter against Bostian. Stabile’s ruling reinstates those charges.

The National Transportation Safety Board report on the derailment said Bostian had no alcohol or drugs in his system and was not using his cell phone at the time of the derailment.

The Amtrak engineer told NTSB investigators that he couldn’t remember why he didn’t slow the train as it approached the curve.

No Injuries in Auto Train Derailment; Silver Service Not Operating South of Jacksonville

March 28, 2020

No passengers were hurt but an Amtrak crew member suffered a foot injury in the Thursday derailment of the northbound Auto Train.

The derailment occurred less than 20 miles north of the DeLand, Florida, station at about 4:15 p.m.

Nine auto rack cars derailed but all of the passenger cars remained on the tracks.

News reports indicated that an unspecified track problem caused the derailment.

The passenger cars were able to continue their journey after an inspection.

The train was carrying 294 passengers and 23 crew members.

Amtrak canceled the Auto Train in both directions on Friday and the Silver Meteor and Silver Star originated in Jacksonville, Florida, rather than Miami.

Amtrak said this morning in a Twitter service alert that both Silver Service trains of March 28 would continue to originate in Jacksonville and that no alternative transportation is being provided for the missed stations.

The carrier will provide alternative transportation on Saturday south of Jacksonville only to discharge passengers.

Cascades 501 Engineer Sues Amtrak for Negligence

January 25, 2020

The Amtrak locomotive engineer who was involved in a December 2017 derailment in Washington State has sued his employer, claiming that he was not properly trained.

Steven Brown filed the lawsuit in Pierce County District Court seeking compensation for physical and mental injuries suffered in the derailment of Cascades No. 501 near DuPont, Washington.

“As a consequence of the Defendant’s negligence and carelessness in violation of laws and regulations, the Plaintiff has suffered hearing impairment, hearing loss, pain, anxiety, general and special damages, diminishment of earning capacity, loss of enjoyment of life, and general damages yet to be determined,” the lawsuit says.

Brown alleges that Amtrak acted negligently when it failed to properly train locomotive engineer on a new route and that he and others were not given a sufficient number of familiarization runs on the Port Defiance Bypass.

Fifty other unnamed individuals are also named in the suit and Brown’s attorneys said they would file amended complaints as those individuals are identified.

Cascades 501 was determined by the National Transportation Safety Board to be traveling 78 miles per hour as it entered a 30-mph curve on the Point Defiance Bypass.

The resulting derailment resulted in the deaths of three people with dozens more injured. Some wreckage fell from a bridge onto Interstate 5.

The incident occurred on the first day of revenue service on the route.

Amtrak immediately suspended service on the Point Defiance route and has yet to say when it will be restored.

Talgo Manager Takes Issue With NTSB Report

November 19, 2019

A Talgo manager said the National Transportation Safety Board that its report on the derailment of an Amtrak train in Washington State in December 2017 contains many errors and unsubstantiated statements.

The NTSB recommended that Amtrak and the Washington State Department of Transportation remove from service immediately the Talgo Series VI trainsets and replace them with equipment that meets current federal safety standards.

Talgo has asked the Board to reconsider its conclusions and recommendations in the case.

Talgo’s Director of Product Development and Compliance Joshua D. Coran told Railway Age that the recommendation to cease using Talgo equipment immediately was “unprecedented and nonsense.”

“I have researched every available NTSB report of passenger train derailments and collisions dating back to 1971,” he told the magazine. “I have found 33. None recommends the removal of an entire fleet of cars.”

The NTSB report concluded that because the Talgo Series VI equipment did not meet federal safety standards it poses an unnecessary risk to passenger safety.

Talgo Series VI equipment was being used on Cascades No. 501, which derailed due to going too fast on a curve.

The NTSB concluded that the Talgo equipment did not provide adequate passenger protection and was structurally vulnerable if involved in a high-energy derailment or collision due to its lack of crashworthiness protections.

The Talgo equipment, though, was in compliance with Federal Railroad Regulations having been “grandfathered” in on one FRA regulation.

In an editor’s note, Railway Age noted that Coran’s comments were his own and not necessarily reflective of the views of Talgo.

Coran said the NTSB’s recommendation “to replace compliant equipment with compliant equipment makes no sense, as it accomplishes nothing except negative commercial impact on the manufacturer of the criticized equipment, Talgo, and benefits manufacturers of potential replacements.

More of his comments can be found at https://www.railwayage.com/safety/ntsb-amtrak-501-report-errors-and-unsupported-statements/

Woman Awarded $4.5M in Cascades Lawsuit

November 14, 2019

A jury has awarded a woman injured in the December 2017 of an Amtrak Cascades train $4.5 million in damages.

The award was made in a Federal District Court in Tacoma, Washington, to Madeline Garza.

She was a passenger aboard the southbound train No. 501 when it derailed on a curve in DuPont, Washington.

A news release issued by Garza’s attorney said she was found lying on her back on the ceiling of an overturned passenger car.

The news release said Garza, who was 18 at the time of the crash, suffered a major injury to her pelvis and lower spine, as well as three fractured ribs and a lacerated liver.

Her case was the second to go to trial stemming from the derailment.

Three other plaintiffs who sued Amtrak were in September awarded nearly $17 million combined for pain and suffering.

The derailment had sent part of the train tumbling off a bridge onto Interstate 5. Three passengers were killed and more than 60 others injured.

A National Transportation Safety Board Investigation determined that the train was going faster than the posted speed limited for the curve when the derailment occurred.

The train was making the first revenue run on the Point Defiance Bypass at the time.

Amtrak immediately returned its Cascades Service trains to the previous route and has yet to resume using the Point Defiance route.

Passengers Describe Being in Illini Derailment

August 7, 2019

Passengers who experienced a derailment of Amtrak’s southbound Illini on Sunday afternoon described themselves as shaken but otherwise all right.

Five cars of the train derailed after striking a truck at a grade crossing in University Heights, Illinois, that killed the truck driver, Richard E. Millette, 77, of Frankfort, Illinois.

Two passengers suffered minor injuries. The derailed cars remained upright.

“They were up to 70 mph and there was a loud bang. There was metal scraping. You could see metal parts flying by our window – a truck hood, tires and things like that,” said Scott Mayer of Windsor, Illinois.

“The cafe car looked like a tornado went through there,” said Mayer who along with his wife were seated in the business class section. “Everything in the cafe car was on the floor. People who were standing in the cafe car ended up on the floor on impact.

“The (train’s) cars started going into the rocks and we stopped pretty fast,” said Mayer. “The gates were down. I don’t know what happened, but (the driver of the box truck) pulled out in front of the train just before it got there at that crossing. There was nothing the engineer could do. He set the brakes and that was all he could do.”

The train was carrying 300 and they were evacuated shortly after the derailment.

Mayer said most passengers handled the incident but some were panicked and upset.

“A lot of people came together and helped one another,” Mayer said.

Jim Myers of St. Elmo, Illinois, said it was difficult to describe the experience.

“It’s hard to explain, but we could feel the train derailing,” he said. “You could feel every tie that we ran across. The car rocked back and forth a little bit. I never wanted something to stop so fast in my life. It felt like an eternity, but it was like only a minute.”

Myers said he could smell diesel and saw a lot of dust floating in the air.

“There was terror in people’s eyes,” Myers said. “People were panicked, but at the same time, they were calm. It was two emotions mixed into one. It was like something you only see in the movies.”

Myers said Amtrak personnel told passengers to leave their things behind during the invacuation, but he said he grabbed a bag.

On the ground the passengers were instructed to move swiftly and walk to a nearby gas station about a half-mile away where they would wait for buses to take them to Governor’s State University.

“Survival mode kicked in,” Myers said. “We made sure all the kids and women got off first.

“I used to ride the train a lot. But I’m not planning to ride anytime soon.”

Megan Sherman, 24, of Bourbonnais, Illinois, said an Amtrak crew member had just stopped by their seats before the train collided with the box truck about 5 p.m.

“It felt like a lot longer, but it was probably just minutes before this all went down,” she said.

Sherman said she felt their train car shudder and saw plywood fly past their window.

She then felt a second shudder as she realized the train was derailing into gravel.

Sherman said the passengers exited the train calmly and in an orderly fashion.

Some passengers were crying but were checking on the well-being of others. Sherman and her husband helped an elderly woman seated in front of them with her bags and helped her get off the train.

Grade Crossing Crash Derails Amtrak’s Illini

July 30, 2019

A truck driver was killed and Amtrak’s southbound Illini derailed after a grade crossing collision Sunday afternoon in University Park, Illinois.

Two passengers aboard Amtrak Train 393 were taken to a hospital and treated for minor injuries.

The train was reported to be traveling at 70 mph when it struck the truck at 5 p.m.

The lead Charger locomotive and five cars derailed. The train had 300 passengers and five crew members.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the crossing gates appeared to be working at the time of the crash.

The derailment blocked the Canadian National mainline and Amtrak’s southbound City of New Orleans was canceled as was the Monday morning departure of the southbound Saluki.

The northbound City terminated in Carbondale, Illinois, on Monday and passengers were taken by bus to Chicago or their intermediate stations.

The City departed as scheduled on Monday night. Also operating as scheduled on Monday were the southbound Saluki and northbound Illini.

NTSB to Announce Silver Star Collision Cause

July 2, 2019

A July 23 hearing has been set by the National Transportation Safety Board to determine the probable cause of a February 2018 collision between Amtrak’s Silver Star and a parked CSX auto rack train.

A preliminary investigation has already determined that a switch left lined from the main into a siding routed the Miami-bound passenger train into the path of the auto rack train near Cayce, South Carolina.

The board will meet at 9:30 a.m. to issue its findings in a proceeding that will be webcast.

Following the collision, the NTSB asked the Federal Railroad Administration to issue an emergency order regarding operations in territory in which the signal system has been turned off for maintenance or an upgrade.

The signals governing the CSX tracks used by the Star were out of service so workers could install positive train control equipment.

The collision killed the conductor and locomotive engineer of the Amtrak train and left 90 others onboard injured.

Some Talgo Equipment to be Removed From Cascades

May 27, 2019

In the wake of a National Transportation Safety Board report on the December 2017 derailment of an Amtrak Cascades train, the Washington State Department of Transportation said it will remove Talgo Series 6 trainsets from service “as soon as possible.”

In a statement, WSDOT said it is working with Amtrak to determine the timing of the equipment removal and equipment replacement.

The NTSB recommended that the Talgo Series 6 equipment be removed from service due to safety issues.

WSDOT said it had planned to remove that equipment from service in the mid 2020s, but the NTSB report has advanced that timetable.

Talgo equipment is used in Cascades service between Eugene, Oregon, and Vancouver, British Columbia. WSDOT and the Oregon Department of Transportation fund that service, which is operated by Amtrak.

In its report about the Dec. 18, 2017, derailment near DuPont, Washington, that left three dead, the NTSB determined that the wheels of the Spanish-built trains became detached during the derailment.

NTSB Investigators described them as “projectiles” that crushed passenger car compartments and highway vehicles.

“Had the rolling assembly not detached we may not have had fatal injuries,” NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said.

The derailment occurred on a 30-mph curve. Train 501 was en route to Portland, Oregon, from Seattle and entered the curve traveling 78 mph.

It was the first day of operation for Amtrak on the Point Defiance Bypass, which is owned in part by commuter agency Sound Transit.

The NTSB said the lightweight design of the Talgo trains was a factor in the severity of the crash.

Manufacturer Talgo has contended that its equipment is safe and performed as expected.

In announcing the conclusions of its accident investigation report, one NTSB member noted that the Talgo Series 6 equipment was “grandfathered” into safety standards of the Federal Railroad Administration because the equipment couldn’t meet updated crashworthiness standards.

The state of Washington owns two Series 6 trainsets and Amtrak owns two others. Oregon owns two Series 8 Talgo sets.

WSDOT spokeswoman Janet Matkin said the agency will be challenged to find funding to buy new equipment.

However, WSDOT is part of a multi-state compact that is acquiring new single-level cars for use on corridor routes operated by Amtrak.

Matkin noted that her agency is seeking federal funds to purchase new equipment and is awaiting a decision by the FRA on those grant applications.

WSDOT has thus far not taken Talgo up on an offer of 31 cars that would make up two or three trainsets depending on capacity, said Talgo spokeswoman Nora Friend.

Friend said the Series 8 cars were offered to WSDOT at less than that list price. The cars are new, but had originally been built for service in Wisconsin before Gov. Scott Walker canceled a planned rail expansion project.

Friend said Talgo 6 cars have a usable life of 30 years. The Series 6 cars owned by WSDOT and Amtrak are 21 years old and some Series 6 equipment is older and still in operation all over the world.

Sound Transit, which came in for criticism in the NTSB report, said it will hire an outside consultant to review the agency’s safety procedures.

“I completely agree with the NTSB that we have a confusing and troubling regulatory regime here where four different agencies plus BNSF have a very convoluted distribution of roles and responsibilities,” said Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff.

The NTSB had recommended that Sounder Transit undertake a review of its safety certification process “top to bottom, when it comes to our role as a track owner.”

Although Sound owns the track where the Cascades 501 derailment occurred, it doesn’t plan to operate rail service there.

“It was our responsibility to not only determine safety protocols but to oversee that Amtrak implemented all of them,” Rogoff said. “That clearly didn’t happen when it comes to whether Amtrak included curve safety protocols in the general orders to its crews, or verifying the level of training Amtrak provided to its train crews.

Amtrak has yet to resume using the Point Defiance Bypass, which it sought as an alternative to the BNSF route it now uses between Tacoma, Washington, and Portland.

Neither Amtrak, WSDOT, nor Sound Transit have said when Amtrak’s Cascades and Coast Starlight might begin using the Point Defiance route.

WSDOT spokeswoman Matkin said her agency needs time to review the NTSB report in detail.

The agency has said previously it would not permit passenger service to resume on the Point Defiance Bypass until the NTSB report is released and installation of a positive train control system is completed.

The NTSB report said the engineer on Amtrak Cascades 501 said he missed the first trackside sign that a curve was ahead. The report said the engineer’s lack of familiarity with the route played a role in the derailment.