Illinois Train Accident Results in NTSB

In our last post we discussed a South Bend plane crash that is being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board. In addition to investigating aviation crashes, the NTSB has also been busy investigating train accidents. Two serious accidents in Illinois and Michigan have prompted the NTSB to recommend the development of new safety standards for railroad workers. The federal agency says that both train accidents were caused by railroad employee error.

The Illinois accident happened near Madison and involved an Amtrak train that collided with a car. The accident happened because two Union Pacific workers disabled the railroad crossing warnings during maintenance work. The crossing warning system didn’t activate as it should have when the train approached, causing the train to hit the unsuspecting motorist.

The Michigan train accident also involved an Amtrak train. In that crash, railroad employees were working with jumper wires and accidently impaired the signal system’s ability to verify the status of a power-operated switch’s alignment. The result was the derailment of a 169-person Amtrak train.

Both accidents were preventable, according to NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman.

“In railroading, what may seem like a small oversight can have deadly consequences – that is why we issue our recommendations – to shine a light on problems that need attention,” Hersman said. “Required safety precautions were not taken by railroad employees during maintenance and repair activities that resulted in one fatality and put hundreds of passengers at risk.”

The NTSB recommendations are targeted toward the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration and Federal Transit Administration.