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Speeches

Closing Statement - Collision Between Freight Train and Motorcoach, Biloxi, MS
Robert L. Sumwalt
Washington, DC
8/7/2018

​In closing, my thanks to my colleagues on the Board for their preparation going into this meeting, and for the good debate and discussion. My thanks to the staff, including everybody on the investigative team, but not just that team. Nothing happens at the NTSB without a group effort, and that extends to program and support staff. My special thanks to Pete Kotowski, the investigator-in-charge of this investigation. I was on the ground with you in Biloxi, and it’s always great to see our team working so well together as you did on this report.
 
In this investigation, we found no evidence that the bus driver was distracted, impaired, fatigued, or medically unfit. Similarly, we found no evidence of fatigue on the part of the train crew. In terms of their decisions, all of them were more or less doing the right thing. We still ended up with the wrong result—the collision of a train with a motorcoach full of passengers. Think about that.
 
The answers were far upstream from the moment of collision, where responsibility for safety became diffuse. With today’s recommendations, we’re seeking to bring the safety picture into focus.
 
The railroads, the state of Mississippi, the city of Biloxi, and not one but two federal regulators, are among the entities to which we’ve directed recommendations today.
Together they can ensure better communication of the hazard, and where necessary, they can identify and reconstruct unsafe crossings. They can collect real-world data on groundings, so that action can be taken before an actual collision.
 
It will take concerted, coordinated action on today’s  recommendations to proactively address the safety challenge posed by high-profile grade crossings.
 
But the alternative is to leave conditions unchanged, setting the scene for the next such crash. And of course, that is an unacceptable alternative.
 
We stand adjourned.