Safety board says 59 airplane accident probes impacted by the shutdown

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) on Tuesday said the government shutdown is delaying and limiting its investigations of 59 airplane accidents that took place during the shutdown. 

The agency said it will issue findings about the probable causes of each of the crashes, but that its conclusions could be hampered, in part because they were delayed due to worker furloughs. 

"It is clear that safety was not served by the government shutdown," NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman said in a statement.

Ninety-four percent of NTSB's workforce was furloughed during the shutdown. As a result, the agency said it only launched investigations into two of the 59 early October accidents.

Federal law only allows inquires during shutdowns when there is an "imminent threat to life or property." Without the shutdown, investigative teams would have been sent immediately to accident sites. 

Ten of the accidents involved at least one fatality. 

Agency officials also said the investigations will not be as thorough because of the furloughs. 

Hersman has already testified before Congress that high-profile investigations involving the crash of an Asiana Airlines flight in San Francisco this year and a Metro-North railway derailment in the spring were delayed by the shutdown. 

The NTSB said on Tuesday that a hearing on the Asiana crash that was supposed to take place in October has been pushed back to November. Similar, a Metro-North hearing that was canceled during the shutdown has been rescheduled for Nov. 6-7.

The NTSB said its testing of new lithium batteries for the Boeing 787 "Dreamliner" airplane following a three-month grounding of the airplane at the beginning of the year was also set back by the shutdown.