Last April, two people were killed when an Amtrak train crashed just outside Philadelphia. The train, which was traveling at 99 mph, slammed into a backhoe, killing the operator and a track supervisor. The train’s engineer and 40 passengers were injured after the force of the crash caused the locomotive to derail. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recently announced their findings from their investigation of the train crash.
At the time of the crash, investigators cited human error as the cause, finding that there was a failure to activate a shunting device which signals to oncoming trains to stop because of maintenance crews on the tracks. One of four tracks was closed for repairs for 55 hours; however, an adjacent track where the backhoe was located was only closed temporarily during each construction shift.
At 7:29 a.m. the morning of the crash, the night foreman lifted the track closure, with the backhoe remaining on the track. Minutes later, the day foreman failed to restore that track closure and 20 minutes later, the train smashed into the backhoe.
In its investigation report, the NTSB wrote that Amtrak had a “culture of systemic safety lapses” which caused the accident. The agency found a total of 20 cultural safety lapses, including failure to have required safety equipment at the crash site which steers trains around track repair work. The railroad supplies workers with supplemental shunting devices which can be attached right to the track near any construction site, yet workers at this site didn’t have any.
The report also cited a lack of job briefings at the site before high-speed trains were allowed back on the track. One investigator pointed out that, “Under no circumstances should you clear foul times with men and equipment fouling the track,” yet that is exactly what happened in this deadly crash.
In addition to the safety failures, the report also revealed that three of the construction workers on site tested positive for cocaine, marijuana, and opioids. Although this situation could have contributed to the crash cause, investigators say it wasn’t a factor in this crash. Since the crash, the Federal Railroad Administration has updated its regulations and now randomly drug test track repairmen.
Train Accident Injury Claims
The findings of the NTSB make the loss of lives and the dozens of injuries suffered even more tragic. The pattern of ignoring required safety procedures by railroad workers, and the failure of Amtrak to make sure these procedures are being followed leave all passengers and railroad workers at risk. Our Virginia mass transit accident attorneys have represented many clients who sustained injuries because the railroad company failed the duty of care they had to both employees and passengers.