UPDATED 6:00 AM: The NTSB reports the data recorder shows the Amtrak train that derailed was traveling at 80 mph in a 30 mph zone.
DALLAS (CBS11) – Federal investigators are now trying to figure out why an Amtrak train derailed over I-5 in Washington State, killing at least three people and injuring dozens of others.
The crash scene is a mangled mess as one of the train’s cars lay upside down, another dangles from the tracks.
Even so, Wesley Frydach says he’s not hesitating to get onto an Amtrak train in Fort Worth. “I still depend on Amtrak to go where we need to go. I mean I’m sorry about what happened this morning, but it’s on God’s hands.”
Brigham McCown, most recently served as a senior advisor to the Transportation Secretary and oversaw the transportation transition between Presidents Obama and Trump.
He says investigators will start their probe in Washington State by reviewing the train’s black boxes to see what was happening moments before the crash, testing the engineer to see if drugs or alcohol played a role, and by focusing on the cause of most train derailments: “They will be looking to see if there’s a track defect and then they’ll be looking to see if the train engineer, the man running the train was doing everything correctly.”
McCown says investigators will look to see if the speed limit, around 79 miles per hour was too high.
Some in the area expressed concerns about speed especially with the tracks that close to the highway.
The tracks in question are not owned by Amtrak, but Sound Transit, which operates commuter rail in the Seattle area.
Still, McCown says Amtrak will face questions as well. “It’s Amtrak’s responsibility to make sure their crews are properly trained, their equipment is up to snuff and that they inspect it. And over the years, different organizations and inspectors general have complained that Amtrak lacks a safety culture.”
There is technology that can prevent derailments called Positive Train Control or PTC.
Among other things, it can tell engineers if there’s another train on the tracks or if they’re traveling too quickly.
McCown says, “Bottom line is Europe has it. We figured out how to go to the moon in less time. It’s complicated yes, but it’s not impossible and it should have been in place today.”
Amttrak said Monday the train involved in the derailment didn’t have the PTC technology.
A law that required the technology to be in place by the end of 2015 was delayed by Congress until December 31, 2015.
McCown says during the Bush 43 and Obama administrations, federal regulators didn’t keep the railroads on required timetables, and then ultimately gave them more time to comply.