NTSB Press Release

National Transportation Safety Board
Office of Public Affairs


NTSB DETERMINES CAUSE OF TWO TRANSIT RAIL ACCIDENTS AT BWI AIRPORT

December 11, 2001

Washington, DC - In a special railroad investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board has determined the probable causes of two separate accidents involving the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) at the Baltimore Washington International Airport (BWI).    Although the accidents have different causes, the Board found similar safety issues were involved in both of them.

The first accident occurred about 2:37 p.m. on February 13, 2000, when an MTA train en route from Baltimore to BWI derailed after striking a hydraulic bumping post at the end of track No.1 at the airport station.  The force of the collision detached the post from the track, and the front of the train, which was lodged against the bumping post, was elevated about 3 ½ feet into the air.  There were 25 passengers and 1 operator on board the train; 18 persons were injured.

A similar accident occurred about 7:14 a.m. on August 15, 2000, on track 2 of the BWI station.  The post again separated from its attachment to the track; it came to rest in an inverted position on the track.  The train's lead car landed on top of the overturned post and about 4 ¼ feet up in the air.  There were 22 passengers and 1 operator on board the train; 17 persons were injured.

In each accident, the Board noted that the operator's failure to  apply the brakes resulted in the train hitting the bumping post and that, prior to the two accidents, the MTA had not successfully implemented a comprehensive system safety program plan throughout all levels of the organization.  Efforts to do so are currently underway.

Major issues developed during this special investigation include the effect of sleeping disorders on the performance of light rail vehicle operators, the adequacy of regulations governing the use of prescription and over-the-counter medicines by light rail vehicle operators, and the adequacy of event recorders.

The train operator of the second accident was suffering from severe obstructive sleep apnea at the time of the accident according to the Board.  In the first accident, the Board found that the effects of prescription pain-relieving medicines and/or the recent use of cocaine impaired the performance of the train operator.

The Board identified several deficiencies with the event recorders on both accident trains, including the system's dependence on a triggering event to activate the recording system.  Such a system does not provide enough information to determine how a train is being operated before an accident.  Consequently, the Board concluded that the event recording system on the MTA light rail cars is inadequate to serve as a reliable accident investigation tool.

 As a result of its investigation the Board recommended that the Federal Transit Administration, all rail transit rail systems and the Maryland Transit Administration:
 


An abstract of the Board's report is available on its web site at www.ntsb.gov, under "Publications".  The entire report will be available on the web site in a few weeks.  Printed copies will be available after that through the National Technical Information Service.

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NTSB Media Contact:
Keith Holloway
(202) 314-6100
hollowk@ntsb.gov  

 

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The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is an independent federal agency charged with determining the probable cause
of transportation accidents, promoting transportation safety, and assisting victims of transportation accidents and their families.