Early this Sunday morning, an Amtrak train crashed into a stationary freight train at 50 miles per hour. The other train was unoccupied at the time, and was pushed back 15 feet before the crash came to a halt. Two of the train workers were killed in the collision, and over 100 of the passengers were injured. But what caused this tragedy?
The main issue was that the train switched to a side track that they weren’t supposed to. The tracks had been manually switched and held in place with a padlock, which caused the train to be unable to control which track they took. Investigators are still not sure why the tracks were locked in this position.
At the time of the accident, the signals along the section of the track were down, and the train was being manually directed by the CSX dispatch center. They must not have known about the switch either, because they were the ones who told the train to take the route that resulted in the crash.
The crash occurred around 2:30 AM. According to the train records, the stationary freighter must not have been spotted in time to stop, because the horn was blasted only seconds before the emergency braked were pushed. But anyone who grew up hearing cautionary train advice knows that it is very difficult for such a heavy and fast object to stop.The vehicle was only able to slow down 6 mph (from 56 to 50) before the collision, and so when it crashed headfirst into the freight car, there was considerable damage.
Looking back, this accident could have been prevented if the CSX dispatch center had been aware of the track situation. There is no room for error when the results are so deadly. And it is really heartbreaking to see a situation that, in hindsight, could have easily been prevented.