NTSB Press Release

National Transportation Safety Board
Office of Public Affairs


UPDATE ON NTSB INVESTIGATION INTO METRA TRAIN DERAILMENT

October 15, 2003

The National Transportation Safety Board dispatched investigators to the scene of the derailment of METRA commuter train number 519 in Chicago on Sunday, October 12. The following is an update of factual information collected by the Safety Board's team.

The derailment occurred at 4:38 p.m. near 47th Street in METRA'S Rock Island District (milepost 4.7) in Chicago, Illinois. Both locomotives and all 5 passenger cars derailed. The train was carrying a three-man crew and approximately 375 passengers on a westbound trip from Chicago to Joliet. Although dozens of passengers were transported to local hospitals, there were no fatalities. Damage has been estimated to exceed $5 million.

The train's event recorders were recovered from both locomotive units and have been read out by Safety Board investigators. The train derailed at a recorded speed of about 67 miles per hour as it traversed a crossover from main track 1 to main track 2. Maximum allowable speed for the crossover movement is 10 mph. The recorders will be transported to the NTSB's Washington headquarters for further analysis in its laboratories.

Weather conditions at the time of the accident were clear daylight, and 68 degrees.

The train's dispatcher told investigators on Monday that he had established the train's intended route through the crossover once train 519 had commenced its trip. The train's engineer was interviewed on Tuesday. He reports that he believed the signals were set for continued operation on track 1, with no crossover movement indicated. The maximum operating speed limit for passenger trains for a clear signal is 70 mph. The engineer has about 9 years of railroad experience, becoming an engineer in July of this year.

On Monday, the Safety Board added a signals expert to the two investigators already on scene. He and his group will test the signal system on the route tonight to determine if it is operating as designed.

Organizations providing investigative assistance to the NTSB are METRA, the Federal Railroad Administration, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, the United Transportation Union, the Brotherhood of Railway Signalmen, and the Illinois Commerce Commission.

Investigative groups have been formed to document all relevant information in the areas of Operations, Track, Signals, Human Performance, Survival Factors, Event Recorder, and Train Equipment.

The Board's on-scene investigation is continuing and pertinent factual information will be released as it is gathered.

NTSB Office of Public Affairs: (202) 314-6100

 

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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.