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Did Engineer Choo-Choo-Choose to Speed?

By Margaret Lyons in News on Dec 3, 2007 5:44PM

2007_12_3.traincrash.jpgInvestigations are still ongoing in Friday's Amtrak crash, but preliminary reports indicate that the train was going 25 mph faster than it was supposed to be. (The video is a lot less exciting than we were hoping for.)

The Amtrak train's engineer told investigators he realized the speed limit was 15 mph in that stretch of track but accelerated to 40 mph anyway, National Transportation Safety Board Vice Chairman Robert Sumwalt told reporters Sunday.

The speed limit on that portion of track, which is usually 79 mph, had been reduced to 15 mph by a red and yellow "restricting signal," indicating another train was on the track, the official said.
Moments after accelerating, the engineer noticed the freight train ahead and applied his emergency brakes; the passenger train then skidded about 400 to 500 feet and slammed into the freight train at about 35 mph....[AP]

At least everyone's okay. All injured parties have been released from the hospital by now, although the first of what we can only imagine will be many lawsuits is officially on the books. John N. Hamstra sustained a concussion and a fractured shoulder, and suit claims the conductors and employees of both Amtrak and Norfolk Southern (the company that owns the freight train) were negligent. NTSB investigations continue, and math teachers across the nation have a brand-new "two trains leave the station going..." problem to use.

AP Photo/Brian Kersey