NTSB Press Release

National Transportation Safety Board
Office of Public Affairs


May 17, 2002

The National Transportation Safety Board today released the following updated information on its investigation of the April 18, 2002, derailment of Amtrak AutoTrain PO52-18 on the CSX Transportation Company track near Crescent City, Florida, which resulted in the deaths of 4 passengers, 6 serious injuries, and hospitalization of 22 others.

Computer Simulations

Work will continue at the New York Air Brakes Train Dynamic Simulation facility in Fort Worth, Texas on the AutoTrain braking systems, stopping distance and train makeup. The simulations will help determine the amount of force the train imparted to the track before and during braking. Investigators are looking at the effect different braking systems may have had on AutoTrain since the train is a unique combination of passenger and automobile-carrying railroad cars. The accident train had 16 Amtrak SuperLiner passenger cars ahead of 24 "autorack" cars. Both types of cars are about the same loaded weight. The simulations will help assess whether re-arrangement of cars in the train could have an effect on the dynamics of the accident.


The large metal couplers, which linked the Amtrak SuperLiner rail passenger cars together, will also be examined. Several couplers broke as a result of the accident and are being sent to the NTSB materials laboratory in Washington, DC for further examination. The examination will focus on determining the cause of the fractures. The couplers are designed to keep railroad passenger cars upright and inline in the event of a derailment.


The investigation is continuing to gather documentation and information regarding the railroad track in the derailment area. The track consisted of continuous welded rail (CWR), which has no joints. The investigation is focusing not only on the physical condition of the track structure at the time of the accident, but track maintenance policies and procedures, maintenance reporting processes, and management oversight by CSX and the FRA.

Toxicological Tests

Mandatory Federal Railroad Administration post-accident alcohol and drug tests were performed on the Amtrak operation train crew after the accident. The results showed no alcohol or illegal drugs in any train crewmembers, including the engineer and conductor.

NTSB Media Contact:
Keith Holloway
(202) 314-6100



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.