NTSB: CSX, workers responsible for South Carolina wreck

Written by Bill Wilson, Editor-in-Chief

What was once a bad week for CSX has now turned into a bad month.

On July 23 the National Transportation Safety Board released a report on the Amtrak crash near Columbia, S.C., in February 2018 and said it was due to human errors … and CSX is to blame.

The accident killed two Amtrak employees when the train they were operating collided with a parked train on a side track. The NTSB says the crew did everything possible to avoid the accident. The emergency brake was pulled as soon as engineer Michael Kempf and conductor Michael Cella realized they were heading down the wrong track. However, the train went from 57 mph to just 53 mpg before the crash. Both Kempf and Cella died.

NTSB says CSX failed to put together a safety plan during track upgrades and a CSX engineer for failing to fill out paperwork to make sure he activated a switch after parking a train so the tracks were back on the main line.

The NTSB also believes Positive Train Control would have prevented the accident, and blames CSX for delaying the installation of the safety system.

“It’s time for railroads to eliminate the possibility of employees failing to perform critical tasks,” NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said following the release of the South Carolina crash report.

“The train crew omitted throwing the switch that one final time, which unfortunately happens far too often,” Sumwalt continued. “If the same error is repeated by many people, the problem is not the individuals’ performance of their duties, rather, the problem is the failure to mitigate the risk associated with the task they are performing.”

Adding seat belts to train seats also is being recommended by the NTSB. Passengers on the Amtrak train that crashed were thrown from their seats on impact.

CSX, which reported poor second quarter earnings last week, says its rules and procedures were not followed, which led to the accident. The Class 1 has changed some of its safety procedures in 2019 and plans to have Positive Train Control in place where required by the end of 2020. CSX claims it has recorded the fewest train accidents over a six-month period in its history.

“At CSX, every aspect of our operations is governed by rules and procedures designed to safeguard employees, passengers and communities,” CSX spokesperson Cindy Schild said in a statement. “In this incident, those rules and procedures were not followed, and the results were catastrophic.”

To see the entire NTSB report, click here.

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Categories: Class 1, Commuter/Regional, Freight, Intermodal, Passenger
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