NTSB: Train safety feature could have prevented S.C. train collision

NTSB: Train safety feature could have prevented S.C. train collision
© Getty

The head of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said Sunday that the correct implementation of a key train safety feature could have prevented the early morning Amtrak crash in South Carolina.

Chairman Robert Sumwalt said at a press conference that the implementation of Positive Train Control (PTC), which automatically decreases the speed of a train traveling over the limit, could have prevented the collision that left two people dead and dozens of others injured.

“A fully operational Positive Train Control system could have avoided this accident. That’s what it’s designed to do,” Sumwalt told reporters.

Railroads have until at least Dec. 31, 2018 to enact the costly safety feature, which lawmakers typically push for following deadly crashes. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who sits on the Senate's Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, advocated on Sunday for the implementation of PTC following reports of the crash. 


"America’s railroads must be made safer. Proven technology like Positive Train Control cannot continue to be delayed," Blumenthal wrote on Twitter. "On safety, business as usual must end."

The safety board said on Twitter that its investigators had arrived to the scene in South Carolina to probe the accident, which occurred when an Amtrak train collided with a freight train.

“NTSB has deployed a go-team consisting of experts in rail operations, mechanical, survival factors, human performance, recorders and signaling,” the agency said.

“They will work on scene for the next 5-7 days. No finding of probable cause will be issued during on-scene phase.”

Amtrak said its train was traveling to Miami from New York when it collided with the freight train, killing two Amtrak employees.

The Sunday collision follows two other deadly Amtrak train crashes in the last two months. Three people were killed in Washington state in December when a speeding train derailed while traveling across a highway overpass. The safety board in its probe found that PTC would have slowed down that train. 

The latest crash also comes several days after a train carrying Republican lawmakers to the annual GOP retreat collided with a truck in Virginia, killing one of the vehicle’s passengers.

The NTSB is conducting investigations into both the Washington and Virginia crashes.