June 24, 2011
On June 24, 2011, the NTSB launched a go-team to investigate an accident that occurred when a large truck struck a passenger train at a highway-rail grade crossing in the Nevada desert.
About 11:19 a.m. Pacific daylight time, an Amtrak passenger train, the California Zephyr, was struck broadside by a truck tractor in combination with two side-dump trailers. As a result of the collision, the truck driver and five people on the train were killed.
Board Member Earl F. Weener served as the on-scene spokesman, and Robert Accetta is the investigator-in-charge. Investigators from the Office of Highway Safety, the Office of Railroad, Pipeline, and Hazardous Materials Investigations and the Office of Research and Engineering worked on scene. In addition, specialists from the Transportation Disaster Assistance division traveled to Nevada to coordinate assistance for victims and family members.
Investigators have documented that the sight distance on the section of roadway leading up to the grade crossing from the truck driver's direction of travel was over 1 mile; a color video recording from the lead locomotive showed that the crossing gates were down as the train approached the crossing and the audio recording confirmed that the train horn and crossing bell were activated; and tire marks were found starting 320 feet from the grade crossing and continuing up to the railroad tracks.
The data from the train's event data recorder and video recorder are being analyzed at the NTSB's recorder laboratory in Washington. The cell phone that was believed to belong to the truck driver was found near the scene and is also being examined at the NTSB lab.
Parties to the investigation are the Federal Railroad Administration, the Nevada Department of Transportation, the Nevada Highway Patrol, the Churchill County Sheriff's Department, Amtrak, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, and the United Transportation Union.
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