Amtrak engineer missed speed sign before train derailment

Posted January 28, 2018

The engineer of an Amtrak train that derailed in Washington state in December, killing three people, knew the train was approaching a tight curve but did not recall seeing signs warning him slow down, according to a new report released Thursday.

The passenger train carrying 83 passengers and crew was traveling almost 80 miles an hour when it went off the tracks on a curve where the speed limit was 30 miles an hour, landing on an interstate below.

The engineer, a 55-year-old male, told investigators he'd been aware of the speed restrictions at the curve near Seattle and that "he planned to initiate braking about a mile prior to curve", according to an NTSB report.

New details released by the the National Transportation Safety Board Thursday revealed more about the last moments on the Amtrak passenger train that derailed on its way to Portland, and the first from the engineer's perspective.

He says he was aware that the curve and the 30 miles per hour speed reduction were coming up at milepost 19.8 on the track, and he had planned to initiate braking about one mile prior to the curve.

An Amtrak train derailed December 18, 2017, near DuPont, Wash., after heading into a 30 miles per hour curve at about 80 miles per hour, according to investigators for the National Transportation Safety Board.

According to the NTSB, the 55-year-old engineer recalled that as the train passed milepost 15.5 it was traveling about 79 miles per hour.

The engineer had experience on the Point Defiance Bypass section where the derailment occurred. He operated the equipment on three trips, two northbound and one southbound.

His plan was to apply the brake about one mile before the curve but apparently did not see the last milepost before the curve or the speed limit sign. The conductor and the engineer had never worked together before.

NTSB investigators interviewed the train's engineer and a conductor the week of January 15, about a month after the fatal derailment killed three passengers and injured dozens of others. Both said they felt well-rested.

The second man in the locomotive, training to qualify for the route, told investigators that he was studying paperwork just before the crash. The conductor said he heard the engineer mumble something, and when he looked up, he sensed the train becoming airborne.

Garrick Freeman was identified as the conductor after filing a lawsuit against Amtrak, claiming the company failed to provide a safe work environment.

Investigators said they will compare the men's accounts of what happened with video from cameras placed in the locomotives and information from the data recorder.

The investigation is expected to take up to two years.