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NTSB: Amtrak train was traveling below speed limit

Investigators arrived yesterday at the site of the Amtrak derailment near Joplin, Montana.
Photo – NTSB Newsroom/Twitter

(Source: Progressive Railroading 09/28/2021)

The Amtrak train that derailed Sept. 25 near Joplin, Montana, was traveling between 75 and 78 mph, below the speed limit for passenger trains on that section of track, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) announced yesterday.

The NTSB’s 14 investigators yesterday began their first full day of assessing the site to determine the potential cause of the derailment, which killed three people and injured 50. The train’s black box recorder indicated the train was traveling below the speed limit, NTSB Vice Chairman Bruce Landsberg said yesterday during a media briefing.

The team, which expects to be on site for the next week, will interview train crews from Amtrak as well as train and track inspection crews from BNSF Railway Co., which owns the track on which the passenger train was traveling when it derailed.

The NTSB is leading the investigation, with assistance from Amtrak, BNSF, the Federal Railroad Administration and labor unions.

In addition to the black box, investigators also have footage from forward-facing cameras installed on the Amtrak train and on the BNSF freight train that traveled through the area about 80 minutes before the accident occurred. Footage from all cameras is being studied frame by frame, Landsberg said.

The train derailed on a gradual right-hand curve prior to reaching a switch, according to Landsberg. BNSF crews conducted a track inspection at the site on Sept. 23.

Also, investigators will examine the possibility that some passengers may have been ejected from the train in the course of the crash, Landsberg said.

“This [scenario] has occurred in prior crashes, so the NTSB has made recommendations to the FRA as well as to the various railroads involved,” he added.

NTSB officials expect to issue a preliminary report of the accident in the next 30 days.

Meanwhile, Amtrak Chief Executive Officer Bill Flynn, President Stephen Gardner and the railroad’s chief safety and operations executives are in Montana at the accident site to support federal and local officials involved in the investigation.

“Additionally, Amtrak has numerous incident response team members, family assistance liaisons and nurse case managers at various locations in Montana to provide individual support for our passengers, our employees, and their families. Incident response team members deployed immediately to assist with emergency response and get passengers back to their home or destination,” Amtrak officials said yesterday in a prepared statement.

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