National Transportation Safety Board
Office of Public Affairs
The National Transportation Safety Board launched a Go Team to investigate the collision of two Union Pacific freight trains in Carrizozo, New Mexico at 7:54 a.m., MST, February 21, 2004.
Eastbound freight train AMLKS-18, consisting of two locomotives and 78 empty auto carriers, struck westbound train GLPNEP-16, consisting of four locomotives and 93 cars loaded with grain, about 25 cars behind the westbound train's locomotives at an interlocking between the main track and a siding. The two crewmembers on the eastbound train were killed in the accident; the two crewmembers on the westbound train were not injured. Both engines and 9 cars of the eastbound train derailed, while 11 cars of the westbound train derailed. A brief fuel fire ensued.
The westbound train had a signal to diverge and was heading into the siding in accordance with the operating rules in place. The eastbound train was to stop at the stop signal to permit the westbound train to clear the track before proceeding. Before the stop signal the eastbound train encountered two signals that informed the crew that they should reduce the speed of their train. The second of these required the crew to reduce the speed of their train to 30 mph and be prepared to stop at the next signal, which was the stop signal. The event recorder from that train recorded a speed at impact of 36 mph, with no input from the crew for several miles before the collision, including no braking action before impact.
The event recorder from the westbound train shows a speed at impact of 23 mph, and numerous short whistle blasts just before the collision.
The crew of the eastbound train went on duty in El Paso at 12:20 that morning. The crew of the westbound train went on duty in Vaughn, New Mexico at 4:00 a.m.
Toxicological tests were conducted under federal rules on the fatally injured crewmembers from the eastbound train. In addition, the Safety Board has obtained its own samples for toxicological tests by a contracted federal laboratory. Results of both sets of tests are pending.
The eastbound train weighed 4,211 tons and was 7,564 feet long. The westbound train weighed 12,269 tons and was 5,867 feet long.
Parties to the investigation are the Union Pacific Railroad, the Federal Railroad Administration, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and the United Transportation Union.
Safety Board investigators are expected to leave the accident scene by the end of this week. NTSB investigations take 12 to 18 months to completion, but safety recommendations may be issued at any time.
NTSB Office of Public Affairs: (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.