NTSB investigates Auto Train wreck

The National Transportation Safety Board is continuing its investigation into the cause of the April 18 derailment of Amtrak’s Auto Train near Crescent City, Fla.

The derailment occurred near milepost A722.2 on the CSX Sanford subdivision. After stopping at a signal to allow a coal train to pass, the engineer was in the process of bringing the passenger train back up to track speed when he entered a curve that had a 60 mph permanent speed restriction. The engineer was at 57 mph when he looked up and saw an anomaly in the alignment of the track.

The engineer placed the train into emergency and toggled the HOTD (headend of train device) as required by Amtrak rules. The train's assistant engineer stated that he placed the train in emergency at almost the same time. The assistant engineer also stated that he looked out the window into his mirror and saw the train piling up.

"We believe the train handling skills of the engineer prevented the accident from being worse than it was," BLE President Don M. Hahs said. "The train crew should be commended for their professionalism and bravery, as it more than likely saved lives."

The engineer of the train is a 28-year railroad veteran and the second engineer is a 29-year veteran. Both are long-time members of the BLE.

Immediately after the accident, the crew decided that one engineer would stay with the locomotives for communications purposes and to protect the head end of the train, while the second engineer would go back and help passengers escape from derailed cars.

"The entire crew is commended by the BLE for their quick thinking and brave actions before and after the derailment," President Hahs said.

Four passengers were killed, 28 of 418 passengers were injured, and 21 of the 40 cars derailed in the accident.


© 2002 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers