NTSB spends Tuesday investigating deadly Amtrak train derailment in Missouri
MENDON, Mo. (KCTV) - On Tuesday morning, a team of 16 National Transportation Safety Board investigators and specialists began their first full day of investigating a train derailment that killed four people and injured 150 others south of Mendon, Missouri.
NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy said the driver of a MS Contracting LLC truck drove through a passive crossing, which is an intersection without arms, bells, or warning lights.
“The truck traversed the crossing and came into the path of Amtrak Train 4,” Homendy said. “The train struck the back part of the truck and then derailed.”
One of the passengers, Andrew Cooper, spoke to KCTV5 News by Zoom Tuesday from Michigan. Cooper said he had just finished a trip to Kansas City with his brothers and was on his way back home when the train derailed on Monday. He was one of the 275 passengers on board.
“There was a deafening explosion. The train started going back and forth and eventually careened over,” Cooper said. “After that, I don’t remember much. I was standing there in shock. It was dusty and hard to breathe.”
Cooper climbed out of his derailed car along with other passengers. He said he is still coping with the news that four people - three passengers and the truck driver - did not survive.
“I’m still in a state of shock,” Cooper said. “I don’t think I’ve fully processed everything.”
Homendy said the NTSB will work to uncover what happened, why it happened, and how to prevent similar incidents in the future.
“To the families who lost loved ones, we extend our deepest condolences,” Homendy said. “The survivors who continue to face challenges over the next several months or years, whether it’s physical or mental pain and anguish, we will think of you in the weeks, days and months to come.”
The NTSB will review two front-facing cameras that were on Amtrak Train 4 to learn when the locomotive engineer blew the horn, whether full service or emergency braking was used, and the speed the train was traveling at. They also hope to download the electronic control module on the truck that collided with the train.
The NTSB is also examining the passive grade crossing where the derailment occurred.
“There were no arms,” Homendy said. “There were no warning lights. There were no bells.”
There are approximately 130,000 passive crossings in the U.S. The NTSB has issued recommendations to close or consolidate passive grade crossings, or make them active crossings with warnings and gates. Since a 1998 study, the NTSB has recommended technology for roadway vehicles that could alert drivers to the presence of trains at grade crossings.
“We still don’t see action on that. It’s been 24 years. That recommendation is still as important today as it was in 1998. Lives could be saved,” Homendy said. “Anytime our recommendations aren’t heeded, of course I’m upset because we see tragedy after tragedy after tragedy and numerous fatalities and injuries.”
Homendy said the intersection where the train derailment occurred was on a MoDOT list for proposed improvements to upgrade the crossing to an active crossing with warning devices.
The estimated cost would be $400,000 that, if installed, would be shared by the state, county, and BNSF.
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