Investigators piecing together facts of deadly train crash

Black box data recorders examined

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Federal authorities are examining all the evidence in Tuesday’s train derailment in Philadelphia, including the so called black box data recorders.

The Amtrak train was reportedly traveling at a speed of around 100 miles an hour along a stretch of tracks that curve in Frankford Junction, northeast of downtown.

“That was absolutely extraordinary,” said Mark Rosenker, former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board. “This is an engineer who has probably ridden this route many, many times. He understood exactly what the authorized speed was. How he got to 100 miles an hour this particular night is going to be one of the major questions to understand how this accident could have happened.”

Investigators have begun the careful process of putting together the pieces of what led to the fatal crash.

Deborah Hersman, also a former NTSB chairman, said the “recorders” will give investigators good information on braking, throttle positions and speed.

“They’re going to be looking at the human, the machine and the environment. So, they’re going to be really focused on that operator. What he was doing,” Hersman said.

Sen. Charles Schumer D-NY, said Wednesday that he talked with some of the heads of Amtrak and the NTSB.

“The track had been inspected the day before. So, it doesn’t seem to be a problem with the track itself. The engine was brand new,” Schumer said.

According to the Federal Railroad Administration, accidents related to human error and track defects account for more than two-thirds all of all train accidents.

In the case of the Philadelphia derailment, it could take an entire year before federal investigators make a final determination.

“But when they finish the report, it is going to be an exact examination of what happened. How it happened. Why it happened. And most importantly, recommendations to prevent it from happening again,” Rosenker explained.

Sen. Schumer said Amtrak was in the process of installing a high-tech safety system in the area, which among other things, can reduce the speed of a train that’s going too fast.

“Amtrak was installing Positive Train Control in this area of track. It was supposed to be finished by December. Had it been in effect, obviously we’d have much less of a tragic situation,” Schumer said. “It’s not really Amtrak’s fault. The FCC hadn’t given spectrum for Positive Train Control until recently despite the fact that we’ve been pressuring them.”

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