As part of its ongoing investigation into the Dec. 18,
2017, derailment of an Amtrak passenger train in DuPont, Washington, the National
Transportation Safety Board released Thursday an
update about the agency’s investigation.
NTSB investigators interviewed the engineer and the
qualifying conductor, who were in the lead locomotive during the accident trip.
Both suffered serious injuries as a result of the derailment and were not
able to be interviewed until the week of Jan. 15, 2018. The following
information is among that provided by the engineer and qualifying conductor
during interviews with NTSB investigators:
engineer, a 55-year-old male, was hired by Amtrak in 2004 as a conductor
and then promoted to locomotive engineer in 2013.
the five weeks preceding the derailment, the engineer had qualified on the
Point Defiance Bypass section of track following the completion of seven
to 10 observational trips in the locomotive as well as three trips
operating the equipment, two northbound and one southbound.
engineer said he felt rested at the start of his shift.
engineer recalled that as the train passed milepost 15.5 it was traveling
about 79 mph.
engineer told investigators that he was aware that the curve with the 30
mph speed restriction was at milepost 19.8, and that he had planned to
initiate braking about one mile prior to the curve.
engineer said that he saw mileposts 16 and 17 but didn’t recall seeing
milepost 18 or the 30 mph advance speed sign, which was posted two miles
ahead of the speed-restricted curve.
engineer said that he did see the wayside signal at milepost 19.8 (at the
accident curve) but mistook it for another signal, which was north of the
said that as soon as he saw the 30 mph sign at the start of the curve, he
applied brakes. Seconds later, the train derailed as it entered the
engineer said that he didn’t feel that having a qualifying conductor in
the locomotive with him was a distraction.
engineer also said that he would not have gotten behind the throttle if he
had any reservations about his readiness to operate the train.
qualifying conductor, a 48-year-old male, was hired by Amtrak in 2010 as
an assistant conductor and was promoted to conductor in 2011.
start of shift, he said he took part in the job briefing conducted by the
conductor and the engineer. They went over general track bulletins and
qualifying conductor told investigators that he felt rested and alert at
the start of his shift. He had never worked with the engineer before. He
told investigators that the engineer appeared alert during the job
briefing and while operating the train.
qualifying conductor told investigators that there was minimal
conversation between himself and the engineer during the trip. Instead he
said he spent time looking at his paperwork to help learn the territory.
prior to the derailment, the qualifying conductor said he looked down at
his copies of the general track bulletins. He then heard the engineer say
or mumble something. He then looked up and sensed that the train was
These accounts by the crewmembers in the lead
locomotive of the accident train are just two sources of information that will
be considered as the investigation progresses. In the coming weeks,
investigators will compare these accounts with video captured from the inward-
and outward-facing locomotive cameras, information from the locomotive event
data recorder and other sources.
In addition to human performance and operations,
investigators are continuing to develop information in a wide range of areas, including
signals and train control, track and engineering, mechanical, crashworthiness,
survival factors and recorders.
The investigation is expected to last 12-24 months.
Additional information, including links to media
briefings, the preliminary accident report, and other material is available on
the Amtrak Cascades 501
accident page: https://go.usa.gov/xnfU6