Seattle – Video from the cab of the Amtrak train that hurtled off the tracks in Washington state, killing three people and injuring dozens, shows that the engineer did not appear to be using a cellphone or any other personal electronic device just before the derailment, federal investigators said Friday.
The video and audio captured from a camera facing inside the cab also revealed that the engineer was heard commenting about the train’s speed just before the train crashed while traveling more than double the posted 30 mph speed limit. But authorities did not provide a transcript of what he said, saying only in a summary that “about six seconds prior to the derailment, the engineer made a comment regarding an over speed condition.”
The video also showed that the engineer did not place the train’s brake handle in the emergency-braking mode as the locomotive was traveling 78 mph, according to the preliminary details of an investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.
The video recording “ended as the locomotive was tilting and the crew was bracing for impact” south of Seattle on Monday, the safety board said.
The train was carrying 85 passengers and crew members as it made its inaugural run along a fast, new 15-mile bypass route. Officials have said previously that another person was inside the locomotive’s cab being trained by the engineer.
Federal investigators trying to determine the cause of the wreck have gathered data from the locomotive’s event data recorder as well as inward- and outward-facing train cameras. They have said their full investigation could take more than a year.
NTSB board member Bella Dinh-Zarr said earlier this week that the locomotive’s emergency brake went off automatically and was not manually activated by the engineer.
Rail-safety experts have said the engineer should have activated the brake about a minute before the train reached the curve posted for 30 mph, and that not doing do strongly suggested that the engineer may have been distracted for an extended period. The engineer, who was among the injured, has not been identified and investigators have said they planned to speak with him soon.
None of the critical train speed-control technology that could have prevented a derailment was active on the section of track where the derailment happened before the train set off on its maiden voyage Monday.
Work to install the GPS-based technology known as positive train control is not expected to be completed until next spring on the newly opened span where the train derailed, according to Sound Transit, the public agency that owns the tracks.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, said on Wednesday that Amtrak had committed to making sure the technology will be in place statewide as soon as possible and before the Dec. 31, 2018 deadline.
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