Testimony Points To Human Error As Cause Of Deadly Amtrak Derailment In DuPont
Federal investigators have interviewed the engineer who was at the controls of Amtrak Cascades Train 501 that derailed last month south of Tacoma. The interview summary points more strongly to human error as the cause of the deadly wreck.
The locomotive engineer told investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board that he knew a sharp curve was coming up, but as filtered through the NTSB, he said he “didn’t recall” seeing the advance speed limit sign.
The first of such warning signs is posted two miles before the curve in question.
When the engineer recognized looming danger, he testified he applied the brakes. But by then it was too late, just seconds before the speeding train launched off an overpass and crashed onto adjacent Interstate 5.
The train entered the 30 mph curve traveling 78 mph according the data recorder retrieved from the lead locomotive.
The derailment killed three passengers and injured more than 60 of those onboard along with an eight motorists whose vehicles crashed into derailed train carriages.
Numerous injured passengers and a driver on the freeway have since sued Amtrak. They allege inadequate crew training and negligence in not activating automatic speed control technology on the line.
On the topic of training, the unnamed locomotive engineer said he would not have gotten behind the throttle if he had any reservations about his readiness to operate the train on the new, higher speed routing alongside I-5.
The 55-year-old engineer suffered serious injuries in the wreck on December 18. His interview with federal crash investigators didn’t take place until last week.
“In the five weeks preceding the derailment, the engineer had qualified on the Point Defiance Bypass section of track following the completion of seven to 10 observational trips in the locomotive as well as three trips operating the equipment, two northbound and one southbound,” said the NTSB investigative update released Thursday.
The union representing the engineer, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, said it could not comment on the NTSB’s account of the interview because the union is a party to the ongoing investigation.
The engineer also said he was not distracted by a conductor-in-training who was riding with him in the cab during Amtrak’s inaugural run with paying passengers from Seattle to Portland using the Point Defiance Bypass.
The NTSB investigators interviewed that conductor, Garrick Freeman, last week as well. Freeman corroborated the engineer’s statement that he was rested when he began his shift.
“He (Freeman) told investigators that the engineer appeared alert during the job briefing and while operating the train,” the NTSB wrote in its update Thursday. Freeman has also sued Amtrak for negligence and is seeking unspecified damages.
The NTSB reiterated that its full investigation will take 12-24 months to complete.
A holiday wish of many Pacific Northwest rail fans is more roundtrips on the Amtrak Cascades schedule with greater speed and reliability. But in order to beef up train service between Seattle and Portland, a bypass route south of Tacoma needs to be reopened. There is still no fixed date to return Amtrak trains to those tracks where a deadly derailment happened just over two years ago. Continue Reading Plans To Beef Up Amtrak Cascades Service Still Delayed Two Years After Fatal I-5 Derailment
An eight-member federal court jury on Wednesday ordered Amtrak to pay Madeleine Garza of Maple Valley, Washington, $4.5 million for pain, suffering and possible future disabilities. Garza received spinal injuries and broke her pelvis during the derailment of the speeding Amtrak Cascades train, which was traveling from Seattle to Portland. Continue Reading There’s Another Multimillion Dollar Jury Settlement Against Amtrak Following 2017 I-5 Derailment
The old Amtrak route started in Seattle, went south to Portland, then east through the Columbia River Gorge to Boise, and then to Salt Lake City, with an onward connection to Chicago. A volunteer-led nonprofit called the Association of Oregon Rail and Transit Advocates (AORTA) proposes to revive at least the Portland to Boise segment. Continue Reading All Aboard! Northwest Rail Buffs Get Steamed Up To Return Oregon Trail Amtrak Route To Boise