NTSB says commuter train was speeding just before Chicago derailment that killed two
CHICAGO – A commuter train was going almost 60 mph above the speed limit just before it derailed, killing two people and injuring dozens, the acting chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board said Sunday.Mark Rosenker said the Metra train was traveling at 69 mph and should not have been going faster than 10 mph when it switched tracks at a crossover just before jumping the tracks Saturday.”Sixty-nine miles an hour is very, very fast when you’re dealing with a 10-mile-an-hour restriction,” Rosenker said.The speed information came from a preliminary reading of one of the train’s three electronic data recorders, popularly known as “black boxes,” Rosenker said.Part of the investigation included an interview Sunday with the train’s engineer, Rosenker said. The 41-year-old man had been on the job for 45 days after completing Metra’s six-month training program, which included at least some training along the route where the derailment occurred. He also had worked for more than five years as a CSX Corp. freight train engineer.The NTSB will also examine records of the train signals and radio transmissions from a control tower, Rosenker said.Investigators have determined that nothing was abnormal with the tracks, which had just been inspected on Friday, he said.The double-decked commuter train was headed into Chicago from Joliet on Saturday morning with 185 passengers and four crew members when its locomotive and five rail cars jumped the tracks about 5 miles south of downtown.The train began to derail as it switched tracks, striking a steel bridge just beyond the crossover. Rosenker said that collision damaged at least one rail car and likely contributed to at least one of the fatalities.The train and the track had just been inspected Friday, said Judy Pardonnet, a spokeswoman for Metra, the commuter rail system that services the Chicago area.The train engineer, three crew members and dispatchers were all tested for drugs and alcohol, which is standard procedure, Pardonnet said.The train’s engineer is taking three days of paid leave for “trauma debriefing.” She said no decisions have been made about his future employment, although findings from the NTSB investigation could determine whether he keeps his job.A similar derailment occurred on the same stretch of track in 2003, injuring about 45 people. A preliminary NTSB report found that the train was going almost 70 mph at the location where it was supposed to switch from one track to the other.Pardonnet said the two derailments may have been just a coincidence. “I don’t think it’s anything specific to this area, but it’s still under investigation,” she said.Jane Cuthbert, 22, of Bourbonnais, died on the train, Pardonnet said. A 30-year-old woman died at a hospital.They were the first people killed in a Metra derailment since it took over commuter rail services in the region in 1984.The injured passengers were taken to 15 hospitals and 15 of them remained hospitalized Sunday, Pardonnet said. She did not have information on their conditions.Train service on the Rock Island District Line resumed about four hours after the derailment, and the cleanup from the accident could cause short delays during Monday’s commute, Pardonnet said.—On the Net:Metra: http://www.metrarail.com/
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