Chicago readers have probably heard the tragic story of the train accident that killed two university students in Maryland one week ago. The friends from high school were spending one summer night together before going their separate ways to start a new semester in college. They were sitting on the edge of an historic rail bridge that runs through the center of town when 21 rail cars derailed atop the bridge, spilling tons of coal. Unfortunately, the girls could not escape the avalanche of onrushing material.
The National Transportation Safety Board immediately initiated an inquiry into the causes of the train derailment. Although an investigator assigned to the crash said that the NTSB is merely gathering information at this stage, the agency has already discovered that the train was not traveling at an excessive speed when the accident happened.
Records indicate that the train's speed was 25 miles per hour, which is deemed acceptable for that stretch of track. The NTSB has also found that the train engaged its emergency brake immediately prior to the derailment without input or assistance from any of the three crew members aboard at the time of the accident.
During the course of the investigation, the NTSB will also examine whether the maintenance of the train cars or the tracks contributed to the derailment. The stretch of track involved in the crash will be removed and reassembled nearby for closer inspection. Proper maintenance of rails and cars is just one responsibility that train companies owe to people who could be injured in a crash.
Source: CBS News, "NTSB: Derailed train was going authorized speed," Aug. 22, 2012
• Passenger-carrying trains must also abide by a high standard of responsibility for the safety of their passengers. If you would like more information on our firm, please visit our Chicago train accident page.