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Accident Report Detail

Derailment of Amtrak Train No. 5 (the San Francisco Zephyr) on the Burlington Northern Railroad

Executive Summary

About 3:15 a.m. on June 15, 1982, Amtrak Train No. 5 (the San Francisco Zephyr), with 315 persons onboard, derailed near Emerson, Iowa, while traveling about 74 miles per hour on the Burlington Northern Railroad. The train was traveling westbound on the No. 2 main track when it encountered floodwater over the top of washed-out rails. The accident resulted in 1 passenger fatality and 27 injuries. Damage was estimated to be about $3,381,940.

Probable Cause

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was that the dispatcher allowed Amtrak Train No. 5 to continue onto tracks that had been washed out by floodwaters because the operating railroad did not have adequate means of collecting and evaluating meteorological information. Contributing to the accident was the failure of the locomotive crew to recognize and respond adequately to indications of possible unsafe track conditions due to flooding and the failure of other railroad employees, including the dispatcher, to assess weather conditions adequately and take action as prescribed by the rules.

Accident Location: Emerson , IA    
Accident Date: 6/15/1982
Accident ID: DCA82AR014

Date Adopted: 2/8/1983
NTSB Number: RAR-83-02
NTIS Number: PB83-916302

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