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BNSF Railway Train Derailment and Subsequent Train Collision, Release of Hazardous Materials, and Fire. December 30, 2013 - Closing Statement
Christopher A. Hart
NTSB Boardroom and Conference Center

In closing, I would like to recognize the hard work of the NTSB staff in producing this report, and to thank my fellow Board Members for their very thoughtful participation in the process. I would particularly like to thank our small but dedicated team of on-scene investigators, who could work only for short periods at a time in sub-zero temperatures before returning to warming huts -- but kept going back out. I would also like to thank Dr. Erik Mueller, whose presentation today on failure analysis of the broken grain train axle was his first in a Board meeting. Thank you, Dr. Mueller, and well done.

I would also like to congratulate the staff on their amazing collaboration on this accident investigation, not only internally within the agency, but also with the AAR and Standard Steel to track down the defective axles, and with other parties throughout the investigation.

Wherever American cities added railroads to connect with other cities, commerce flourished and populations boomed. In addition, new towns sprang up along the railroad tracks.

Consequently, a large number of people living near the railroad tracks that go through their communities rely upon the railroads being safe. NTSB recommendations over the years for safer rail tank cars help to protect such communities from derailments and hazardous materials releases.

The report that we considered today draws attention not only to people living in such communities, but also to people who work as train crew members, whose safety is no less important.

If acted upon, the recommendations that we issued today will be a step toward protecting train crews against the effects of railroad accidents involving hazardous materials.

Improvement and maintenance of rolling stock are necessary for improved safety in a 21st century railroad system. 21st century safety knowledge must also apply to the distance between cars containing hazardous materials and train crews.

We stand adjourned.