Speed Identified in Cascades Train Derailment Investigation

WASHINGTON, DC — The National Transportation Safety Board has released details gathered from the locomotive event data recorder and inward- and outward-facing cameras on Amtrak Cascades passenger train 501 that derailed last month in DuPont, Washington.

The train derailed south of Tacoma, killing three people on the train and injuring dozens more. The NTSB found that the train was going 78 mph in a 30 mph zone at the time of the crash. The train was making its first trip on a new section of a route between Seattle and Portland, and while the section had been tested for at least six months prior to the accident, local officials had concerns about the project’s safety.

Inward-facing video with audio captured the crew’s actions and their conversations. A forward-facing video with audio captured conditions in front of the locomotive as well as external sounds.

The agency’s initial finding are:

  • The crew was not observed to use any personal electronic devices during the timeframe reviewed.
  • About six seconds prior to the derailment, the engineer made a comment regarding an over-speed condition.
  • The engineer’s actions were consistent with the application of the locomotive’s brakes just before the recording ended. It did not appear the engineer placed the brake handle in emergency-braking mode.
  • The recording ended as the locomotive was tilting and the crew was bracing for impact.
  • The final recorded speed of the locomotive was 78 mph.

A preliminary report detailing the facts and circumstances of the crash developed in this early stage of the investigation will be available on the NTSB website in the coming days.

The entire investigation is expected to last 12-24 months.