The engineer of an Amtrak train that derailed Monday in Washington state, killing three people, remarked approximately the train’s high rate of speed and applied the brakes six seconds before the crash, federal investigators said Friday.
Amtrak Cascades passenger train 501 was traveling approximately 78 mph when it approached a curve with a speed limit of 30 mph, according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which is overseeing the investigation.
A dozen passenger cars were flung off the tracks and onto an interstate highway below near DuPont, killing three people and injuring 72 others.
The NTSB on Friday released current details gathered from the locomotive’s data recorder and inward- and outward-facing cameras, which investigators said shows that the crew were not using any personal electronic devices at the time. Instead, six seconds before the derailment, the engineer commented approximately the high rate of speed and attempted to slack the train down. However, he did not apply the emergency brakes, according to the NTSB.
“The engineer’s actions were consistent with the application of the locomotive’s brakes just before the recording ended,” the NTSB said.
The recording ended as the train was tilting and the crew braced for impact.
The train was on its inaugural accelerate between Seattle and Portland using a current bypass that was supposed to shave 10 minutes off the preceding route. Amtrak had been conducting test runs for two weeks.
The train was equipped with Positive Train Control, a technology that uses GPS to monitor and automatically slack trains down in potentially hazardous situations, but the system had not yet been certified for exercise, officials said.
While speed was clearly a factor, the NTSB said it could prefer up to two years for the final investigation to be completed.