NTSB: Amtrak engineer missed pace restrict indicators

A Portland-bound Amtrak train derailed near Tacoma Wash., Monday Dec. 18 2017

The Amtrak engineer aboard a passenger train that derailed last month in Washington state has told the National Transportation Safety Board he misread a signal and tried to brake before the crash that killed three people, the agency said on Thursday.

The train was traveling about 80 miles per hour approaching the curve posted for 30 miles per hour, investigators have said earlier.

The National Transportation Safety Board on Thursday released the first accounts of interviews it did with the 55-year-old engineer and a conductor, 48, who was also in the locomotive at the time.

The engineer said that he did not feel that having the qualifying conductor on board caused any distractions and said that he would not have gotten "behind the throttle" of the train if he had concerns about his own readiness.

In an NTSB summary of interviews with the engineer and conductor on duty during the deadly crash, the engineer said he knew the curve with a 30 miles per hour speed restriction was at milepost 19.8 and he planned to start braking about a mile before reaching it.

The NTSB in a preliminary report released earlier this month said that PTC would have slowed down the train.

The engineer operating a high-speed Amtrak train when it flew from the tracks during its debut run in December applied the brakes ahead of the deadly derailment, but only after missing key signage that would have prompted him to slow down the locomotive sooner.




The two had never worked together before. He felt rested at the start of the trip, he told investigators.

NTSB investigators interviewed the train's engineer and a conductor the week of January 15, about a month after the fatal derailment killed three passengers and injured dozens of others.

Officials did not identify the engineer, but said he had been hired by Amtrak in 2004 as a conductor and promoted to locomotive engineer in 2013.

He said he looked up from his paperwork after hearing the engineer mumble out loud, just before the derailment, then sensed the train was going airborne.

NTSB officials said they are continuing to interview more people about the derailment, adding that they are also reviewing video and data recorder information from the derailment.

The engineer on the train told investigators that in the five weeks ahead of the crash on December 18, 2017, he had traveled on the section of track where the derailment occurred seven to 10 times as an observer and operated a train on the route 3 times, twice headed north and once headed south.

The investigation could take up to two years.

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