Derailment of Amtrak Train 4, Southwest Chief,
on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway
Near Kingman, Arizona
August 9, 1997
Synopsis: About 5:56 a.m., on August 9, 1997, National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) train 4, the Southwest Chief, derailed on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway tracks about 5 miles northeast of Kingman, Arizona. Amtrak train 4 was en route from Los Angeles, California, to Chicago, Illinois, and had just left the Kingman station. The train was traveling about 89 mph on the eastbound track when both the engineer and assistant engineer saw a "hump" in the track as they approached bridge 504.1S. They applied the train's emergency brakes. The train derailed as it crossed the bridge. Subsequent investigation revealed that the ground under the bridge's supporting structure had been washed away by a flash flood.
Of the 294 passengers and 18 Amtrak employees on the train, 173 passengers and 10 Amtrak employees were injured. No fatalities resulted from the accident. The damages were estimated to total approximately $7.2 million.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was displacement of the track due to the erosion and scouring of the inadequately protected shallow foundations supporting bridge 504.1S during a severe flash flood because the Burlington Northern Santa Fe management had not provided adequate protection, either by inspection or altering train speeds to fit conditions. Contributing to the accident was the failure of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe management to adequately address the erosion problems at bridge 504.1S.
The major safety issues identified in this report are:
As a result of this accident investigation, the Safety Board makes recommendations to the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corporation, the Federal Railroad Administration, the Federal Highway Administration, the Arizona Department of Transportation, the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak), the Mohave County Sheriff's Department, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National Sheriffs' Association, the Association of American Railroads, and the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association. Also, the Safety Board reiterates one safety recommendation to the Federal Railroad Administration.