Railroad Accident Report

Collision of Two Burlington Northern Santa Fe Freight Trains

Clarendon, Texas
May 28, 2002

NTSB Number RAR-03-01
NTIS Number PB2003-916301
Adopted June 3, 2003
PDF


Executive Summary

At 8:57 a.m., central daylight time, on May 28, 2002, an eastbound Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) coal train collided head on with a westbound BNSF intermodal train near Clarendon, Texas. Both trains had a crew of two, and all crewmembers jumped from their trains before the impact. The conductor and engineer of the coal train were critically injured. The conductor of the intermodal train received minor injuries; the engineer of the intermodal train was fatally injured. The collision resulted in a subsequent fire that damaged or destroyed several of the locomotives and other railroad equipment. Damages exceeded $8 million.

Probable Cause

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the May 28, 2002, collision at Clarendon, Texas, was (1) the coal train engineer's use of a cell phone during the time he should have been attending to the requirements of the track warrant his train was operating under and (2) the unexplained failure of the conductor to ensure that the engineer complied with the track warrant restrictions. Contributing to the accident was the absence of a positive train control system that would have automatically stopped the coal train before it exceeded its authorized limits.

As a result of its investigation of this accident, the Safety Board identified the following safety issues:

Recommendations

As a result of its investigation of the May 28, 2002, collision at Clarendon, Texas, the National Transportation Safety Board makes the following safety recommendations:

To the Federal Railroad Administration:

Promulgate new or amended regulations that will control the use of cellular telephones and similar wireless communication devices by railroad operating employees while on duty so that such use does not affect operational safety. (R-03-1)

In territory not equipped with a positive train control system, restrict the issuance of track warrant authority that contains an after-arrival requirement to trains that have stopped at the location at which they will meet the opposing train. (R-03-2)

To the General Code of Operating Rules Committee:

Add language to the track warrant rules to ensure that in territory not equipped with a positive train control system, track warrant authority that contains an afterarrival requirement is issued only to trains that have stopped at the location at which they will meet the opposing train. (R-03-3)