Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
Bookmark and Share this page

Accident Report Detail

Penn Central Company, Electrocution of Juvenile Trespasser On Penn Central Tracks

Executive Summary

On May 14, 1971, a male juvenile climbed on top of a draft of freight cars which had been left temporarily adjacent to the Penn Central Sixth Street Yard, Washington, D. C., and was electrocuted when he contacted the electrified catenary system. Within minutes thereafter, a police officer was seriously burned and knocked from the top of an adjacent car when he attempted to reach the stricken youth. The youth was apparently killed outright, but the police officer survived.

Probable Cause

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was contact by the trespassing youth with the trolley wire of the 12,000-volt, 25-hertz catenary system while he was moving on top of railroad freight cars.

Contributing factors were:

  1. The absence of fencing to prevent access by persons to the hazards of railroad operations, including the high voltage catenary propulsion system.
  2. Inadequacy of signs to convey an understandable warning of the specific hazards present.

The cause of the injuries to the police officer was his contact with the trolley wire while he was moving on top of the freight car in an effort to reach the electrocuted youth.

Contributing factors were:

  1. The prevailing practice of the Penn Central to restore failed circuitry experimentally without a physical inspection to determine the absence of hazard to persons.
  2. Lack of training of the police officer relative to the hazards in the area.
  3. Lack of contact and communications between the police and the Penn Central.

Accident Location: Washington , DC    
Accident Date: 5/14/1971
Accident ID: 80370

Date Adopted: 3/29/1972
NTSB Number: RAR-72-03
NTIS Number: PB-210249

Related Report

Related Press Releases

Related Events

Related Investigations