NTSB: Amtrak Train Was Traveling 50 MPH Over Speed Limit

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Posted: Dec 19, 2017 7:30 AM
NTSB: Amtrak Train Was Traveling 50 MPH Over Speed Limit

The National Transportation Safety Board released new information about the deadly train crash in Washington Monday that left at least three people dead and more than 70 injured.

During a news conference late Monday, NTSB board member Bella Dinh-Zarr told reporters the Amtrak train was traveling 80 miles per hour in a zone that was 30 miles per hour. That information, Dinh-Zarr explained, was retrieved from the data recorder in the rear locomotive.

A track chart prepared by the Washington State Department of Transportation shows the maximum speed drops from 79 mph to 30 mph for passenger trains just before the tracks curve to cross Interstate 5, which is where the train went off the tracks.

The chart, dated Feb. 7, was submitted to the Federal Railroad Administration in anticipation of the start of passenger service along a new bypass route that shaves off 10 minutes for the trip between Seattle and Portland, Ore.

Kimberly Reason with Sound Transit, the Seattle-area transit agency that owns the tracks, said speed signs are posted 2 miles before the speed zone changes and just before the speed zone approaching the curve.

Amtrak train 501 heading southbound derailed around 7:30 a.m. local time after it left the new Tacoma station.

Photos from the scene showed at least one train car completely detached and fallen onto Interstate 5 below, while another dangled in the air. Drivers on the highway were injured, but none were killed, police said. (Fox News)

What, exactly, caused the train to derail was not yet known, Dinh-Zarr said, adding that it was also “too early to tell” why the train was traveling so fast.

“Engineers are trained to slow trains according to posted speeds,” Transportation Department spokeswoman Barbara LaBoe said Monday about why the train was crossing the curves at such high speeds.

If the conductor fails to follow posted speeds, Positive Train Control technology, which can slow or stop a train traveling too quickly, wasn’t in use on the part of the track the derailment occurred.