Honorable Deborah Hersman, NTSB Board Member

Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman
National Transportation Safety Board
Opening Remarks
Board Meeting
Collision Involving Two Freight Trains
Goodwell, OK, June 24, 2012
Washington, DC — June 18, 2013


Good morning. Welcome to the Boardroom of the National Transportation Safety Board. I am Debbie Hersman, and it is my privilege to serve as Chairman of the NTSB. Joining me are my fellow Board members: Vice Chairman Chris Hart, Member Robert Sumwalt, Member Mark Rosekind and Member Earl Weener. I'd like to recognize Member Rosekind for his excellent service as spokesman for our on-scene investigative activities.

Today, we meet in open session, as required by the Government in the Sunshine Act, to consider the June 24, 2012, train crash: two Union Pacific freight trains on a straight track collided head-on near Goodwell, Oklahoma.

The crash killed both crewmembers of the eastbound train and the engineer of the westbound train. The conductor of the westbound train jumped to safety - seconds before impact.

On behalf of my fellow Board members and the entire NTSB staff, I offer our deepest condolences to the families and friends of those railroaders who lost their lives in this collision. We know that nothing can replace the loss of your loved ones; our goal is that our investigation, findings and recommendations will help prevent similar tragedies in the future.

In this investigation, we'll hear about the role a chronic medical condition played in the crash. We'll also hear about the state of medical certification in the railroad industry and how it lags behind the existing and planned standards in other modes of transportation, including trucking and commercial aviation.

Yes, no one is perfect. Nor can we be. This is why in endeavors, such as transportation where there can be so much risk, we must acknowledge and address human performance limitations and put safeguards in place.

Mineral Springs, North Carolina, Chatsworth, California, and now, Goodwell, Oklahoma. How many more times are we going to meet here in this room to talk about train collisions that could have been prevented by previously identified technology? Had PTC been in place, this crash would almost certainly have been avoided.

The current system cannot prevent two trains from the same company, manned by two crews from the same company operating on that company's own tracks, from colliding head-on in broad daylight, and sadly, I expect we will continue to meet here in this room discussing preventable collisions until PTC is fully implemented.

Dr. Mayer, will you please introduce the staff.