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Positive Train Control Could Have Prevented Deadly Crash

ByTim De ChantNOVA NextNOVA Next

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A train crash that killed two and injured 116 people early on Sunday could have been prevented if a safety technology known as positive train were installed and active on the track, according to Robert Sumwalt, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board.

An Amtrak train was traveling en route from New York to Miami when it struck a CSX freight train at 2:30 am. Two Amtrak employees—train engineer Michael Kempf and conductor Michael Cella—were killed in the crash.

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The Amtrak train collided into the CSX train on a siding, or a stretch of track where one train waits while another passes. The CSX train was parked, and the switch controlling access to it had been flipped manually, allowing the Amtrak train to enter the same siding.

Since the NTSB first recommended positive train control, then known as automatic train control, in 1969, more than 300 deaths and 6,700 injuries could have been prevented with the technology. NOVA investigated positive train control last year in the film “ Why Trains Crash .”

The technology was supposed to have been implemented on tracks nationwide by 2015, but several railroads protested, demanding extensions.

Here’s Ralph Ellis, Nicole Chavez and Dakin Andone, reporting for CNN:

Railroad companies have until the end of 2018 and possibly two more years afterward to implement PTC.

Sumwalt said he didn’t know why this particular train didn’t have PTC.

Richard Anderson, Amtrak CEO and president, told CNN’s Rene Marsh that the signal system along the section of track where the crash occurred was down and the tracks were being manually controlled by CSX. Sumwalt confirmed the tracks were owned and operated by CSX.

The Amtrak train had nine crew and 147 passengers, while the CSX train was empty, having recently unloaded a shipment of cars.

While the NTSB has issued a preliminary finding, its full investigation will take 12 to 18 months to complete.