Articles Posted in Train Accidents

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On Tuesday, May 12, at least seven people died and more than 200 people were injured, many severely, when Amtrak Northeast Regional Train 188 derailed in Philadelphia. The “black box” for the train revealed that it was traveling at approximately 106 miles per hour – twice the governing speed limit –as it went into a sharp turn. Passengers were violently flung about the train in what survivors describe as a terrifying event.

Clearly, the train engineer was reckless and must be held largely accountable for the disaster that he wrought. However, this catastrophic accident could and should have been prevented by responsible management of the nation’s train system. “Positive Train Control” computerized technology regulates trains in many other places throughout the U.S. and prevents a train from exceeding the speed limit. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommended its deployment in the extraordinarily busy Northeast Corridor, where this crash occurred. However, Congress has irresponsibly voted down the funding necessary to deploy this technology. Unbelievably, Congress cut Amtrak funding the day after this fatal crash.

The Northeast Corridor is the busiest region in the country for train travel. Amtrak carries more than 750,000 passengers a day across eight states and the District of Columbia in this region alone. A vast number of Americans depend on our trains to run safely. Yet, due to a combination of a crumbling infrastructure and driver error there were, according to the Federal Railroad Administration Office of Safety Analysis, approximately 1,241 derailments in the U.S. last year. Hundreds of people are seriously injured and many are killed in train crashes annually. By contrast, although Japan has had a high speed rail system for close to 50 years, they have never had a fatality, according to Sean Jeans-Gail, the Vice-President of the National Association of Railroad Passengers. The NARP has long been forcefully advocating for our failing rail system to be repaired and maintained in accordance with reasonable safety standards.

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Philadelphia – Investigators haven’t yet released a statement saying what caused the fatal derailment of Amtrak Northeast Regional Train 188 in Philadelphia last night that left 7 passengers dead and 200 injured. However, a National Transportation Safety Board spokesperson said that preliminary data indicates that the train’s speed exceeded 100 mph before the derailment. That’s more than twice the 50 mph speed limit for the curve it was in.

Brandon Bostian, 32 from New York was the engineer operating the train. He applied full emergency brakes “just moments” before the train derailed, according to NTSB board member Robert Sumwalt. He also said that the train was traveling about 106 mph as it headed into a left turn.

The location of the wreckage and damage to the cars indicated that speed was a likely cause of this tragic accident. Most trains have a data recorder similar to the “black box” commercial airliners have. The train’s data recorder was discovered at the scene and could be the key to determining exactly what caused the accident.

For now, there are still more questions than answers.
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There are many trains in use today throughout the United States and the state of Florida. They include freight trains (transport goods, materials, cargo and chemicals), high speed trains (Amtrak), inter-city trains, commuter trains / regional trains (brings workers to and from work), rapid transit (metro or subway) and light rail (trolley or street cars).

According to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) states that approximately 3,000 train accidents occur each year in the United States with nearly 1,000 people dying as a result.

Railroad accidents are often caused by trains colliding with each other, vehicles or pedestrians, are a result of derailments, excessive speed by drivers, intoxication of drivers, distracted train operators, fatigued trained operators, inadequately trained train operators, warning signal failures, visual obstructions, mechanical failures, poor maintenance and inadequate security.

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A Fort Lauderdale train accident claimed the lives of two women and left one man critically injured on November 19th when a 325-ton Tri Rail train slammed into a gold Toyota Camry which had stopped on the tracks on Commercial Boulevard.

Forty-four year old Connie Hamblin and her passenger 22 year old Felicia Hatmaker of Tennessee were both ejected from the car and killed according to Fort Lauderdale Police. Another occupant of the Toyota, Eddie Hamblin, also of Tennessee, was transported to North Broward Medical Center in Deerfield Beach in critical condition.

This railroad crossing lies between two very busy intersections — Powerline Road to the west and the southbound I-95 ramps to the east.

Traffic often backs up onto the crossing in both directions when the traffic lights at those intersections turn red.

At least two attempts to address this hazard either were unsuccessful or were never fully implemented.

The Florida Department of Transportation in 2000 tested a concept called a “European X” — a box about the size of a car with an X painted on the roadway just beyond the crossing in each traffic lane. The idea was that if drivers could see the X as they approached the crossing, they would be able to safely cross.

The X markings are no longer on the pavement there and the Miami Herald reported that no one at the FDOT could recall the results of that experiment.

The DOT had also announced plans to install cameras at that crossing and at crossings at McNab Road, Cypress Creek Road, Powerline Road and Prospect Road.

The cameras were designed to send an instant signal to the train operator to slow down if a motorist is stalled. But train operators balked presumably at the idea of cameras preserving evidence of their own negligence.

There have been seven railroad accidents involving automobiles at the Commercial Boulevard Tri-Rail crossing since Tri-Rail began service in 1989. Those accidents resulted in three fatalities and two serious injuries.

All of those accidents involved Tri-Rail trains but one involved an Amtrak train.
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