NTSB: Hoboken train speed nearly tripled before crash


The New Jersey transit train that crashed in Hoboken nearly tripled its speed before impact, investigators said Thursday.
USA TODAY

A New Jersey Transit train nearly tripled its speed before colliding in a “large flash” with the station in Hoboken, killing one person and injuring 100, federal investigators said Thursday.

On Sept. 29, the train had been idling at just 8 mph about 38 seconds before the crash, but it sped up for unknown reasons, according to a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board. The engineer told investigators that the brakes were working normally, and the emergency brakes were applied less than a second before impact.

“A large flash was visible as the car collided with the panel at the end of the track and the video ended,” the report said.

The board will determine what caused the crash and make recommendations to avoid it happening again, but that might take a year or longer. Thursday’s report was a factual update of what investigators have found so far.

New Jersey Transit officials declined comment to the AP about the report, citing the Hoboken investigation, but have said in the past that safety is a top priority.

The engineer in the Hoboken crash, who was hired in 1987 and became an engineer in 2000, told investigators his cellphone was turned off and in his backpack. He had conducted routine brake tests before his run, and he told investigators the train operated normally.

“He said he remembers waking up in the cab laying on the floor after the accident, but has no memory of the accident,” according to the preliminary report.

The accident occurred about 8:38 a.m. when Train 1614 failed to stop and overrode a bumping post at the end of track five, according to investigators. A large flash was seen in video from the train as it collided with the station, they said.

The forward facing video recorder captured the sound of one blast of the train’s horn about one minute before the collision while the train was in the yard leading to the terminal. The train’s bell began sounding shortly afterward and continued until the end of the recording.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported Thursday that NJ Transit tops federal lists for railroad accidents and fines. The country’s second-largest commuter railroad has had trains involved in 157 accidents in the last five years, according to an AP analysis of federal data from January 2011 through July 2016. That is three times as many accidents as the largest commuter system, the Long Island Rail Road, AP found.

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