NTSB Press Release

National Transportation Safety Board
Office of Public Affairs


March 16, 2004

The National Transportation Safety Board today released the following update on its investigation of a series of highway grade crossing collisions, March 10, involving an unmanned Long Island Rail Road locomotive in Queens, New York. The unmanned locomotive passed through grade crossings that did not have active warning devices (bells, lights, gates), striking several vehicles and causing serious injuries to four vehicle occupants.

NTSB investigators have completed interviews with all five of the railroad employees involved in the accident and will be reviewing that information. The employees have told the Safety Board that they set the air brakes before leaving the locomotive unmanned for a brief period.

While crewmembers reported setting the air brakes, according to crew statements and investigator observations, a separate braking system - the hand brake - was not set, nor were the wheels blocked, as required by LIRR operating rules when a locomotive is left unattended.

Two days before the accident, the locomotive passed an inspection mandated by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). (The FRA requires that locomotives be inspected every 92 days.) However, tests done on the locomotive after the accident showed some leakage in the air brake system, indicating that after a period of time enough air would bleed off to release the brakes. The locomotive is being held out of service for further NTSB mechanical evaluation.

Data from the locomotive event recorders has been sent to the NTSB laboratory in Washington for detailed readout and analysis. Investigators also will be studying security camera videos obtained by the New York City Police Department.

NTSB investigators are looking into why a protective mechanism, installed on the rails and designed to be able to stop railroad equipment, failed. They also will be studying the grade crossings, which earlier had active warning devices that were removed.

The NTSB is aware of a report of an incident on March 6 stemming from brake problems with the accident locomotive, and will be folding this nformation into its investigation.

The Safety Board also expects to receive reports of the toxicology tests done on the train crewmembers in accordance with LIRR policy.

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.