Late Wednesday morning an Amtrak train carrying GOP lawmakers to an annual retreat in West Virginia hit a garbage truck. The accident occurred in the small rural Virginia town of Crozet and has left at least one person dead and 6 others injured. Those most severely injured, including the person who died, were riding in the trash truck while those injured on the train sustained only minor injuries.
The investigation is still early on, but the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigators working on the investigation have said the investigation will begin by focusing on: the speed that the train was traveling at, whether or not the operator of the train was fatigued or distracted, the condition of the tracks, the condition of the crossing gates, the condition of the truck, and the condition of the truck’s driver.
This is the second high profile train accident to occur in less than two months. The first accident being an Amtrak derailment that occurred in late December outside of Seattle Washington, which left three dead and many others injured. Unfortunately, accidents like this are increasing. One federal report has found that accidents similar to this happen roughly 2,100 times per year.
Heartbreakingly, another Amtrak collision occurred on Sunday, February 4, causing two fatalities (as of Monday morning). This was the third fatal crash in as many months for Amtrak.
Again, the NTSB is on-scene and investigating what may have led to the Amtrak train coliding with an unmanned CSX freight train on a siding. It would appear at this stage that a switch (a mechanical device that guides a locomotive from one track to another, or guides it to stay on the mainline track, depending on how it is set), guided the Amtrak train off the mainline, onto a siding where it colided with the CSX freight train.
In light of this trend and prompted by these recent accidents some lawmakers are calling for action to evaluate the safety and condition of our country’s rail system. For example, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes-Norton called for a congressional hearing on the state of rail safety following Wednesday’s accident. According to the Congresswoman Congress should not wait for the NTSB to finish their investigations before acting. In a statement released after the accident the Congresswoman said, “We need to know whether more is needed to address rail safety now.”
Follow the NTSB on twitter for up-to-date information on both of these tragedies.