NTSB derailment investigation: Emergency brakes activated, PTC n - KPTV - FOX 12

NTSB derailment investigation: Emergency brakes activated, PTC not installed, crew to be interviewed

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TACOMA, WA (KPTV) -

The National Transportation Safety Board released details Tuesday about the preliminary investigation into the train derailment over Interstate 5 south of Tacoma that killed three people and injured dozens more.

Bella Dinh-Zarr, NTSB spokeswoman, said every crew member on the train was hospitalized and interviews with those workers will begin as soon as they are medically cleared.

At the time of the derailment, an engineer was in the cab with a conductor. That conductor was not assigned to that trip, however, and was instead familiarizing himself with the route, according to the NTSB.

The official conductor for the trip was in the passenger section of the train at the time of the derailment.

Dinh-Zarr said interacting with passengers is part of a conductor’s job, as is getting experience and becoming familiar with the territory.

Dinh-Zarr said all factors are being investigated, including possible distractions. She said it is protocol to check the cell phone records of all crew members following a railroad incident.

The train was traveling 80 mph in a 30-mph zone when the derailment occurred, according to investigators.

Dinh-Zarr said the emergency brakes were automatically activated on the train and they were not initiated by the engineer.

The train was in the process of having PTC installed – Positive Train Control – but it was not yet functional on the locomotive.

PTC is an overlay system that is designed to prevent accidents and guard against “human error,” according to the NTSB. Dinh-Zarr said it allows, for example, for the system to automatically enforce speed restrictions by either slowing or stopping a train.

PTC is a “long-time recommendation” from NTSB and a deadline was initially in place for all trains to have it by the end of 2015. Dinh-Zarr said Congress later extended the deadline for nationwide implementation by train companies to the end of 2018.

MORE: Two men killed in Washington train derailment remembered as passionate railroad advocates

Onboard cameras have been recovered, but they were significantly damaged and will be sent to the NTSB lab in Washington D.C. to attempt to extract and review the video.

It is expected that NTSB will remain at the scene of the derailment for seven to 10 days to conduct the investigation.

Gov. Jay Inslee said Tuesday that all the facts of the investigation need to be collected before moving forward and, “We have confidence that we will get to the bottom of what cause d this horrific tragedy.”

“We will fix anything that went wrong to make sure in the future, rail safety is assured for everyone,” he said.

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