NTSB: Derailed Amtrak train sped at 78 mph; no cellphone use suspected

Amtrak train 501 derailed from an overpass onto Interstate 5 in DuPont, Wash., on Monday, killing three people and injuring dozens of passengers. Photo by Washington State Patrol/UPI

Dec. 22 (UPI) — The engineer of an Amtrak train that crashed this week said it was traveling fast — more than twice the posted speed limit — just six seconds before it derailed south of Seattle, killing three passengers.

The National Transportation Review Board on Friday disclosed the engineer’s comment — and other details about Monday’s crash, after investigators finished their initial review of the train’s video footage.

The NTSB’s review confirmed the train derailed while traveling 78 mph — more than twice the speed limit for the section of curved track where Amtrak 501 derailed.

Investigators have also said it appears the engineer did not activate the train’s emergency brake.

In addition to the three dead, the wreck injured dozens of passengers and sent one train car crashing onto busy Interstate 5 during the Monday morning rush hour.

Investigators said security footage also cast doubt on the possibility that a crew member could have been using a cellphone at the time of the crash.

“The crew was not observed to use any personal electronic devices during the timeframe reviewed,” the NTSB said.

Officials cautioned, though, that their findings so far are preliminary and could change as the investigation continues.

Also Friday, The Wall Street Journal reported that state officials had previously considered removing the section of curved track where the crash occurred — but ultimately didn’t, out of cost concerns.

The recommendation to eliminate the curve was part of an effort to boost train transit times.


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