Good morning and welcome to the Boardroom of the National Transportation Safety Board.
I am Robert Sumwalt, and I’m honored to serve as the Chairman of the NTSB. Joining us today are my colleagues on the Board, Member Earl Weener and Member
Today, we meet in open session, as required
by the Government in the Sunshine Act, to consider the collision between a
freight train and a charter motorcoach at a high-profile highway-railroad grade
crossing in Biloxi, Mississippi, on March 7, 2017.
The crash resulted in the deaths of 4
motorcoach passengers, and injuries to the driver and 37 other passengers.
On behalf of my colleagues on the Board and
the entire NTSB staff, our sincerest condolences to those of you who lost loved
ones in this accident. Please understand that the sole purpose of this investigation
has been to learn from what happened, to prevent crashes like this one from
happening again. To those who
were injured, many seriously, we hope that you are on the way to the fullest
This morning, investigators will detail the
full crash sequence. But very simply, the charter bus bottomed-out and became
grounded on a high-profile highway-rail grade crossing. The long wheelbase of
the bus made a grounding more likely than for a passenger car. While the bus
was grounded, a train approached and struck it.
A crossbuck sign, warning lights, and crossing
gate arms were present to prevent drivers from crossing the tracks when a train
was approaching. But at the time that the bus became stuck, the lights were not
yet active, and the gate arms were still up.
There was also a “low ground clearance” sign
posted, featuring a silhouette of a lowboy trailer. But in this instance, the sign
was not enough to warn the motorcoach driver that his vehicle, too, might
Today, we’ll discuss not only this collision
and collisions like it, but also groundings that don’t result in collisions—since
a grounding set the scene for this crash. We’ll also discuss whether today’s
signage effectively and consistently protects against the risk of grounding, and
if not, what more can be done.
And finally, we’ll discuss the many entities that
play a part in making such crossings safer.
The State of Mississippi, the City of Biloxi,
the railroad, the Federal Railroad Administration, and the Federal Highway
Administration, and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation
Officials all affect the state of grade crossing safety in the city of Biloxi.
When that many entities work together to improve
safety, one body can bring perspectives to the table that another body might
miss. But there’s a downside too: Every entity might think that a specific hazard
is somebody else’s responsibility.
We’ll look at how these entities worked
together, and how they can work together in the future.
You’ll hear a lot of numbers today: the angle
of incline and decline south and north of the railroad tracks, in inches and
degrees. The seconds between events. The speed of the train. They’re all
Perhaps the most important number you’ll hear
today is 4, the number of people who lost their lives in this collision.
Another important number is 29. There are 29 grade
crossings in Biloxi. There are also that many grade crossings in Biloxi with a
vertical slope greater than the maximum recommended for new and reconstructed
Which high-profile crossings should be
off-limits to vehicles prone to grounding? Which vehicles are most at risk? How
should conditions be communicated to drivers? These are some of the questions raised
by this investigation.
Today, the NTSB staff will briefly present
the most pertinent facts and analysis found in the draft report. Our public
docket, available at www.ntsb.gov,
contains more than 8,000 pages of additional information, including interviews,
videos, as well as 119 photos.
Staff have pursued all avenues in order to propose
findings, a probable cause, and recommendations to the Board. We on the Board will then question staff to ensure that the report, as adopted, truly provides the
best opportunity to enhance safety.
Now Managing Director Dennis Jones, if you would kindly introduce the staff.