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NTSB: Train Failed To Stop Prior To Fiery Texas Panhandle Fatal Crash

The train failed to slow at a yellow warning signal on June 28 and then continued past a red signal before striking an oncoming BNSF train.

An aerial view of the site where two trains crashed near Amarillo, TX on June 28.
An aerial view of the site where two trains crashed near Amarillo, TX on June 28.

Federal inspectors say a preliminary investigation reveals that a train failed to heed a stop signal before it barreled head-on into another freight train in June near Amarillo in the Texas panhandle.

Three crew members died in the fiery crash.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) says in the report released Thursday that an eastbound BNSF railway train failed to slow at a yellow warning signal on June 28 and then continued past a red signal before striking an oncoming BNSF train.

The report says the eastbound train, bound for Chicago, was supposed to stop and allow the Los Angeles-bound train to pass.

Each train was carrying two crew members. One jumped to safety, the other three died.

The eastbound train was traveling about 65 mph when it passed the red stop signal.

Activists in Houston who are concerned about transporting oil by train through urban areas have pointed to the crash in the panhandle as one reason for stricter regulation.

Below is the Executive Summary of the preliminary report, followed by the report itself:

 

Executive Summary

The information in this report is preliminary and will be supplemented or corrected during the course of the investigation.

On Tuesday, June 28, 2016, at 8:21 a.m. central daylight time, two BNSF Railway (BNSF) trains collided at milepost 525.4 on the BNSF's Panhandle Subdivision. (See figure 1.) Each train was crewed by a locomotive engineer and a conductor. Eastbound train S-LACLPC1-26K consisted of 3 head-end locomotives, 2 distributive power units, and 56 loaded cars, and westbound train Q-CHISBD6-27L consisted of 5 head-end locomotives and 54 loaded cars. The signal system was lined to route the westbound train into the Panhandle control point siding at milepost 526.1 while holding the eastbound train on the main track before the east end of the siding. The collision,which caused the derailment of the locomotives and several cars from both trains, occurred about one-half mile east of the east switch (east end) of the Panhandle siding. The weather at the time of the accident was clear and 74°F. The collision and derailment resulted in a significant fire. Three crew members died in the accident—the engineer and conductor on the eastbound train and the conductor on the westbound train. The engineer of the westbound train jumped from the train before impact and survived with injuries. The BNSF estimated damages of $16 million.

Train movements in the area of the accident are governed by signal indications of a traffic control system. A positive train control system is scheduled to be implemented by the BNSF in this area by the end of 2016.

Preliminary review of signal event recorder data and tests of the signal system indicate the last signal the eastbound train passed before the collision was a stop (red) signal. The previous signal the eastbound train passed was an approach (yellow) signal. [1] A preliminary review of locomotive event recorder data revealed that the eastbound train was traveling about 62 mph when it went by the approach signal at the west end of the Panhandle siding and about 65 mph when it went by the stop signal at the east end of the Panhandle siding.

Investigators completed sight distance tests of the signal system for the operation of both trains into the collision point, and the results are being analyzed. Investigators also shipped event and video recorders to the NTSBrecorders laboratory in Washington, DC, for further analysis. The investigation is ongoing.

Parties to the investigation include the Federal Railroad Administration, BNSF Railway, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, and the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers.

[1] A red signal aspect requires a train to stop before any part of the train passes the signal; an approach signal indicated by a solid yellow aspect requires that a train reduce speed to a maximum of 40 mph and be preparedto stop at the next signal.

Probable Cause

The information in this report is preliminary and will be supplemented or corrected during the course of the investigation.

Full Preliminary Report:

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