Posts Tagged ‘Cascades 501’

Amtrak Cascades 501 Derailment Engineer Wants Job Back

June 2, 2021

The locomotive engineer who was at the controls of an Amtrak Cascades train that derailed in December 2017 is still trying to get his operating license back and resume his career.

But in an interview with the Seattle Times, Steven Brown, 59, said he recognizes that is unlikely.

Brown said he knew Cascades No. 501 was speeding as it entered a 30-mph curve at 80 mph on Dec. 18, 2017, at DuPont, Washington.

But he thought the train could make it through the curve and even though he also knew “it was going to be uncomfortable.” Instead the train derailed and some passenger cars landed on Interstate 5 below.

Three passengers were killed and 65 others injured in the derailment. A subsequent investigation determined the train was traveling 78 mph when it derailed.

Amtrak fired Brown for violating safety rules and the Federal Railroad Administration suspended his license.

Brown told the newspaper he relives the derailment “all day” during his waking hours. He had become a locomotive engineer in 2013 after working nine years as a conductor.

“I was satisfied with where I got in life. I was really, truly, happy,” he said. “In an unbelievable instant, it’s all gone.”

The derailment left Bown with broken ribs, a broken jaw and cheekbone, compressed vertebrae, and elbow damage requiring partial replacement.

The incident occurred during the first trip of an Amtrak train on the Point Defiance bypass. Amtrak immediately ceased using the route and has yet to return to it although it will conduct crew qualification runs on the line between June 1 and July 25.

Engineers will be required to complete at least six practice round trips and a series of 10-hour days mimicking the actual operating schedules.

Brown said he had made one southbound run and two northbound trips as an engineer as well as seven to 10 observational trips.

Washington State Man Sues Over Cascade Derailment

March 3, 2020

A Washington State man has filed a lawsuit seeking damages to compensate him for injuries suffered in a December 2017 derailment of an Amtrak Cascades Service train near DuPont, Washington.

The lawsuit was filed by Timmy Brodigan, who was 16 at the time of the derailment.

The suit said he suffered a broken neck that has left him paralyzed.

The suit, which seeks an unspecified amount of damages, names Amtrak, the Washington State Department of Transportation and Sound Transit.

Although no damages amount was specified, the suit is seeking millions of dollars.

Although others filed lawsuits following the derailment, in which Cascades No. 501 plunged off a bridge and onto an interstate highway below, Brodigan’s suit is the first to name three defendant organizations.

The derailment left three dead and more than 60 injured.

A federal court jury earlier awarded $17 million to three victims in earliers cases.

An attorney representing Brodigan, Todd Gardner, said the negligence of the defendants resulted in his client now being dependent on a wheelchair to get around.

“He’d like his life back. He knows he’s not going to get that,” Gardner said at a news conference.

None of the defendants would comment on the lawsuit when asked about it by news media in Washington State.

Brodner’s lawsuit contends that Amtrak’s use of the Point Defiance Bypass south of Tacoma was rushed into service without adequate preparation.

The Dec. 18, 2017, derailment occurred on the first day of revenue service on the route.

Neither Amtrak nor Sound Transit has used the route since the derailment.

A National Transportation Safety Board investigation concluded that the Amtrak train was traveling nearly 80 miles per hour entering a 30-mph curve.

The NTSB report also noted that route did not yet have a positive train control system in operation at the time of the derailment.

Jury Awards Man $10M in Cascades Crash

February 14, 2020

A Washington State man was awarded more than $10 million this week by a jury for injuries he suffered in a December 2017 derailment of an Amtrak Cascades train.

Donnell Linton, 47 of Renton, was a passenger aboard the train, which derailed and crashed onto an interstate highway below in an accident that left three dead and dozens injured.

The jurors returned the verdict in U.S. District Court in Tacoma. Linton is the second plaintiff to win damages from Amtrak in connection with the derailment.

Linton’s attorneys said he suffered fractures to his face, shoulder and ribs and is still receiving medical treatment.

He was traveling with his now 14-uyear-old son, who suffered some facial fractures.

An attorney said the elder Linton and his son were thrown from the train and landed on the highway.

Lawyers say other personal injury cases in connection with the derailment are pending while some cases have been settled out of court.

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.

Jury Awards $16.75M in Cascade Derailment Civil Trial

September 17, 2019

A jury has awarded $16.75 million in damages to two victims and the spouse of one of them stemming from the December 2017 derailment of an Amtrak Cascades train.

The eight-member jury in a federal court in Tacoma, Washington, awarded Dale Skyllingstad $7.75 million, $7 million to Blaine Wilmotte and $2 million to Madison Wilmotte.

A case involving plaintiff Aaron Harris will be heard later.

U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle had declared a mistrial in the case involving Aaron Harris due to a dispute over testimony by an expert witness about injuries that Harris sustained in the derailment.

At the onset of the trial, Amtrak attorney Mark Landman conceded the passenger carrier had acted negligently and accepted responsibility.

The trial therefore focused on the severity of the injuries that the plaintiffs suffered and the extent of their recovery.

An attorney for Skyllingstad described him as a railroad enthusiast who suffered a traumatic brain injury that has left him with lasting emotional effects.

Testimony showed that he suffered a broken pelvis, a spinal fracture, a cranial fracture and lacerations on his liver and kidney after his was ejected from a Talgo coach during the derailment.

Blaine Wilmotte was in a pickup truck on Interstate 5 when the train derailed on a bridged and landed on his truck, trapping him there for 90 minutes.

Attorneys said he suffered multiple broken bones, personality and behavior changes, anxiety, and a diminished capacity to work.

Madison Wilmotte, who was pregnant at the time of the derailment, sought damages because of the impact of her husband’ injuries and the emotional toll on their marriage.

The train was southbound on the Point Defiance Bypass on the first day of revenue service on the route.

The National Transportation Safety Board determined that the train was speeding as it entered a 30 mph speed zone on curve.

More than 30 other plaintiffs have also sued in the wake of the derailment and those cases are set to be heard by Judge Settle.

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.

NTSB Releases Cascades 501 Accident Report

May 27, 2019

The National Transportation Safety Board last week released it long-awaited report on the derailment of Amtrak Cascades Service No. 501 in December 2017 and zeroed in the failure of Central Puget Sound Transit Authority to mitigate the hazards of a curve on the Point Defiance Bypass.

No. 501 entered the 30 mph curve traveling 78 mph. The resulting derailment killed three passengers aboard the train and injured 57 others. Eight people were injured after some cars fell on motor vehicles on Interstate 5 near DuPont, Washington.

The derailment occurred on the first day of operation for Amtrak on the Point Defiance Bypass.

By law, the NTSB is required to issue a single “probable cause” at the conclusion of its investigations, but the agency made 53 specific findings and listed 26 recommendations.

The NTSB recommendations were addressed to numerous agencies, including the U.S. departments of transportation and defense, Amtrak, Washington State and Sound Transit.

The report also singled out the safety of the Talgo Series 6 equipment used by Cascades Service trains.

It also noted that the locomotive engineer was distracted by the overspeed alerts due to his confusion about the bells and alarms and screens since he hadn’t seen those alerts during regular training.

The NTSB recommended that locomotive engineers receive more simulator training.

The report also noted that the conductor sitting in the cab was too passive, acting more like an observer than an active member of the crew.

During a five-hour hearing to announce the findings of the report NTSB Chair Robert Sumwalt emphasized the need to focus on preventing wrecks rather than surviving them.

In particular, he spoke about repeated delays to implementing positive train control systems on routes used by passenger trains.

“Today’s new and reiterated and reclassified recommendations, if acted upon, will make rail transportation safer for passengers and train crews,” Sumwalt said “But they will require action by several parties, including the Federal Railroad Administration. The repeated postponement of Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations Part 270, ‘System Safety Program,’ has delayed needed safety improvements for passenger rail.”

After saying there have been six delays of the PTC deadline, Sumwalt called on the Federal Railroad Administration to act.

“It’s time. It’s time to move forward on it,” he said. “We want the FRA to move. They’re saying it will be done by September. It’s time. It’s past time, to get it done. There’s no other way to put it. It’s time, it’s past time, for the FRA to act. As we’ve seen, lives depend on the issuance of that rule.”

Among the key recommendations made by the NTSB, it called for U.S. DOT to require to require inward-facing image and audio recordings in locomotive cabs.

It wants the FRA to act more forcefully on PTC and hinted that all passenger service should operate in PTC territory.

The FRA should also study how better signage and wayside plaques might improve situational awareness for train crews, to compel better compliance with emergency lighting rules, to look into child safety-seat use and research how the compartmentalization approach to interior safety can be affected by the range of passenger sizes.

WSDOT was urged to stop using Talgo Series VI trainsets. Amtrak was told to work harder at training crew members and ensure that they can show knowledge of their territories.

Central Puget Sound Transit was asked to conduct an immediate review of all operating documents, coordinate to develop operating documents with current and prospective tenant on railroads where it is the host, and immediately review its safety program, analyze any gaps, and develop an action plan to address deficiencies.

NTSB to Determine Cause of Cascades Crash

March 17, 2019

The National Transportation Safety Board plans to meet on May 21 to determine the probable cause of an Amtrak derailment that killed three people in December 2017 in Washington state.

The NTSB has made a preliminary determination that Cascades Service No. 501 was speeding when it derailed near DuPont, Washington, on Dec. 18, 2017.

The train was operating on the first day of revenue service on new route south of Tacoma.

Sixty-five people including passengers crew members and occupants of motor vehicles on Interstate Highway 5 were injured in the crash. Portions of the train fell onto the highway from a bridge.

Investigators have said the train was traveling at 78 mph in a 30 mph zone when the derailment occurred.