UPDATE: NTSB Says Truck Collided With Track Before Amtrak Derailment

Mar 15, 2016
Originally published on March 16, 2016 8:14 am

Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board say an agricultural truck collided with railroad tracks near Cimarron, Kan., prior to an Amtrak train derailing in the same area.

“Based on the information we have at this time, the rail ties and the track had shifted in a way that’s consistent with an impact from an agricultural truck striking the trackbed,” Earl Weener of the NTSB said during a press conference Tuesday.

The federal agency wouldn’t officially link the two incidents, but say footage from the Amtrak train’s front-facing camera showed that “the track…shifted an estimated 12 to 14 inches to the south," and that “investigators identified a point of derailment 25 feet beyond the impact location [of the truck].”

Weener said that there were fresh tire tracks left behind, which investigators matched to a 2004 Kenworth 2-axle feed truck owned by Cimarron Crossing Feeders, LLC.

Weener said there is no evidence that the operator of the farm truck reported the collision to law enforcement or to railroad operators. When reached by phone, a representative for Cimarron Crossing Feeders said the company couldn’t comment on the incident.

The Amtrak train was carrying more than 140 people when it derailed. Amtrak has stated that at least 32 people were injured in the derailment.

NTSB investigators say the Amtrak train was traveling at the allotted 60 MPH speed limit when the engineer applied the emergency brakes. From the time of the emergency brake application to when the train came to a stop was about 18 seconds, and traveled more than 900 feet, investigators said.

The train cars have since been turned upright. BNSF Railway, which owns the length of railroad where the derailment occurred, have finished repairs to the railroad tracks and should be ready for passenger and freight service.

Original story aired Tuesday, March 15, during Morning Edition:

An Amtrak train carrying more than 140 people derailed near Dodge City early Monday morning. The train was traveling from Los Angeles to Chicago.

Investigators at the derailment site near Cimarron, Kansas, about 180 miles west of Wichita, are looking closely at track conditions. Eight of the train’s cars derailed here early Monday morning, some coming to a rest on their side.

Earl Weener of the National Transportation Safety Board wouldn’t speculate on the cause of the incident, but says there was some indication that the tracks were misaligned.

“The engineer noticed that there was something wrong with the tracks, put the train into emergency braking early, and that was partly responsible for the train derailment not being any worse than it was,” Weener says.

He says the Federal Railroad Administration reports the tracks were inspected as recently as last Thursday.

At least 30 people were injured in the incident, two critically.

Passengers spent more than 10 hours at a local community center staffed by Red Cross volunteers before boarding buses to their original destinations.

NTSB will be onsite for a week, and will eventually issue a probable cause for the derailment.

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