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Effect of Excess Speed in Train Crash Is Weighed

January 14, 1987|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Amtrak train that collided with three freight locomotives on Jan. 4 was exceeding its speed limit by 23 m.p.h., and investigators are trying to determine if that aggravated the severity of the accident, officials said Tuesday.

The National Transportation Safety Board investigation, meanwhile, continued to focus on why the engineer of the Conrail locomotives, who also was speeding, apparently did not heed a stop signal until he was almost on top of it, so that the locomotives skidded into the path of the passenger train.

Joseph Nall, a safety board member, said the investigation is concentrated on the "human performance" of the Conrail crew, and that no evidence has surfaced to indicate malfunctioning of either the locomotives' brakes or the track signals.

16th Passenger Dies

The pileup and derailment at a major track junction near Baltimore left 15 people dead. That toll rose to 16 Tuesday, when one of the Amtrak passengers, Connie Barry, 31, of Ridgefield, Conn., died in a hospital.

Nall told reporters that speed recorders showed the Amtrak locomotive, which was pulling 12 cars, was traveling at 128 m.p.h. when the brakes were applied. By the time it collided with the freight locomotives, it had slowed to 105 m.p.h.

The usual top speed on that section of track would be 125 m.p.h., but that train was restricted to 105 m.p.h. because it included several older "Heritage" model cars, officials said.

Investigators emphasized that the collision could not have been avoided even if the train had complied with the speed restriction.

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