NTSB hearing on fatal Cayce Train Crash determines plenty of blame to go around

NTSB hearing on fatal Cayce Train Crash determines plenty of blame to go around

CAYCE, S.C. (WIS) - Nearly a year and a half after a deadly train crash in Cayce killed 2 people and injured 90 others, transportation regulators sought to put a bottom line on what happened that day.

A National Transportation Safety Board hearing in Washington DC touched on a lot of topics Tuesday, from implementing seatbelts on trains to better-enforcing regulations already proposed by the NTSB.

The agency spent the day looking at Amtrak, CSX and the Federal Railroad Administration, probing areas of failure, and areas where each entity has improved since the crash in the early morning hours of February 4th, 2018.

The agency concluded there were failures from all parties involved, from CSX management and personnel, flipping a switch that diverted the Amtrak train to a side track, causing the crash.

Bruce Landsberg, the Vice Chairman of the NTSB said the Federal Railroad Administration bears some blame. “Crew members have responsibility, companies have responsibility and doggone it, the Federal Railroad Administration has responsibility here and it seems like they have been doing an awful lot of foot-dragging. How long does it take to get something reasonable through to prevent some of these accidents?”

Train signals in the area were temporarily shut down for a safety upgrade when the crash happened, and the agency determined Amtrak did not properly consider that risk while running a train through Cayce, another factor in that crash.

Robert Hall, also of the NTSB chalked up the crash to human error, but said more can be done to isolate mistakes: “The FRA database on railroad accidents... (shows) human performance and human error is the number one cause of accidents. And so we have to have processes in place as the Chairman said to trap those critical errors, so they don’t become serious accidents.”

NTSB Board Member Jennifer Homendy summed up the issue of accountability with a question:

“We're not saying that the conductor had no responsibility... but we are saying that CSX had the primary responsibility of having to ensure safety of all train operations on their territory, correct?”

Hall replied, “Absolutely.”

NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt, who is from Columbia-- said the agency will require action from several parties moving forward including the NTSB itself. Sumwalt said “It’s time for the railroads to eliminate the possibility of employees failing to perform critical tasks, such as lining a switch, lining a derail, or ensuring cars are in the clear,” by putting additional safeguards in place.

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