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Accident Report Detail

Derailment of Amtrak Train No. 820 (The Crescent) of Southern Railway System Track

Executive Summary

About 5:55 a.m. on April 3, 1983, Amtrak passenger train No. 820 (The Crescent), en route from New Orleans, Louisiana, to Washington, D.C., with 331 passengers and 18 crewmembers aboard, derailed when it struck a landslide near Rockfish, Virginia, about 23 miles south of Charlottesville, Virginia. Heavy rains in the area preceded the landslide. The track had been inspected 6 hours before the accident. The train was moving about 48 mph at the time of the accident. There was no train order in effect for reduced speed in the area of the derailment. Twenty-four persons were injured, and damage was estimated to be $232,000.

Probable Cause

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the accident was the failure of the Southern Railway System to issue a train order to require the engineer of Amtrak passenger train No. 820, operating in an area known to have landslides, to operate the train at a speed from which he could stop in time if he saw a slide. Contributing to the accident was the failure of the Southern Railway System in the prevailing circumstances to have had the track patrolled nearer to the time the passenger train was to pass or to have slide detection devices.

Accident Location: Rockfish , VA    
Accident Date: 4/3/1983
Accident ID: DCA83AR005

Date Adopted: 12/12/1983
NTSB Number: RAR-83-10
NTIS Number: PB83-916310

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