Feds: Amtrak engineer missed speed sign before train derailment

Feds: Amtrak engineer missed speed sign before train derailment

The engineer operating the Amtrak train that derailed in Washington state last month missed an advance speed sign prior to the crash, federal officials say.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which interviewed the conductor and train engineer, revealed the development in a report on the crash released Thursday.

“The engineer said that he saw mileposts 16 and 17 but didn’t recall seeing milepost 18 or the 30 mph advance speed sign, which was posted two miles ahead of the speed-restricted curve,” the safety agency said.

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The engineer also misidentified a signal at the 19.8-mile mark for a separate signal, according to the report. He applied the breaks once he saw the 30 miles per hour sign at the 19.8-mile mark, but the train derailed “seconds later.”

The engineer told the safety board that he knew the curve had a 30 miles per hour speed limit and prepared to break one mile ahead of the curve. The train was going 79 miles per hour at the 15.5-mile mark, which was about four miles ahead of the curve.

The NTSB said it conducted the interviews last week, nearly one month after the crash, due to the injuries the two individuals sustained in the derailment.

The December crash south of Seattle left three dead when the speeding train derailed while traveling across a highway overpass.

The derailment spurred House Democrats earlier this month to introduce new legislation to accelerate the implementation of a train safety feature called Positive Train Control (PTC), which automatically decreases the speed of a train traveling over the limit.

The NTSB in a preliminary report released earlier this month said that PTC would have slowed down the train.

The Positive Train Control Implementation and Financing Act would give railroads until the end of this year to enact PTC. It would also allot $2.5 billion worth of grants to aid commuter railroads and intercity railways in implementing PTC.

The bill would also mandate that Amtrak provide updates about the headway it makes enacting PTC in required reports.

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