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Accident Report Detail

​Collision Involving Three BNSF Railway Freight Trains near Amarillo, Texas, September 25, 2013

Executive Summary

​On September 25, 2013, at 4:17 a.m. central daylight time, BNSF Railway (BNSF) eastbound train BLACWSP223A (7891 East) struck the rear end of standing BNSF train SLHTLPC223A (6746 East) on main track no. 2 near Amarillo, Texas. Several cars from 7891 East derailed and fell across the adjacent track, main track no. 1. Approaching BNSF westbound train ZWSPSBD724L (6943 West) struck the derailed cars.

The engineer and the conductor of train 7891 East recalled passing signals warning them of the train ahead. However, the signal at milepost 543.65 was not lit because the bulb had burned out (also known as a dark or improperly displayed signal). Had the bulb not been burned out, the signal would have displayed a red aspect, which would have required them to stop the train before proceeding at restricted speed. When they passed this signal, neither crewmember noticed that the signal was dark. A dark signal also required the crew to stop the train before proceeding at restricted speed.

The engineer stated that he thought the dim (low-beam) headlight from the rear end locomotive helper unit of 6746 East was an approaching train on the adjacent track. The conductor thought the headlight had a yellow cast to it and was a wayside signal. Neither crewmember thought the headlight was on the rear of a standing train.

Five of the six involved train crewmembers received injuries and were hospitalized. The weather was clear with 10-mile visibility, and the temperature was 59°F. Estimated damage was $4.4 million.

Probable Cause

​The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determines that the probable cause of the accident was the failure of the 7891 East train crew to comply with the requirement to stop and proceed at restricted speed when encountering a dark or improperly displayed signal. Contributing to the accident was the use of a dim headlight to indicate the rear end of the standing train, which the 7891 East engineer misinterpreted as the headlight of an opposing train on the adjacent track and the conductor misinterpreted as an upcoming yellow signal. Also contributing to the accident was the lack of a positive train control system that could have prevented the accident.

Accident Location: Amarillo , TX USA  
Accident Date: 9/25/2013
Accident ID: DCA13FR013

Date Adopted: 6/25/2015
NTSB Number: RAR1502
NTIS Number: PB2015-105169

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