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Historic Railway Disasters
17 Mar 99



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USA: City of New Orleans crash - Investigators begin probe

David Fry
Investigators have begun to piece together the jigsaw of what happened in Monday's Amtrak train crash in

Photo: Reuters
Ariel view of the accident scene showing the scale of the destruction
which 11 people died.
The overnight train to New Orleans, the 'City of New Orleans' carrying as many as 217 people, including 20 crew struck a flat-bed semi-trailer truck near Bourbonnais Illinois.

Those who died were travelling in a double decker sleeping car, the fourth vehicle behind the engine. It was engulfed in flames as a fire that started in one of the locomotives spread.

Data from the locomotives' black box recorders will be examined to ascertain train speed and the moment that the brakes were applied.

Photo: Chicago Tribune
Examining the lead locomotive

National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigators will want to know how the truck came to be on the crossing at the time the train was approaching. According to early reports the truck driver stated that he did not notice that the warning lights were flashing.

The warning lights were clearly working, at least at the truck's exit from the crossing
The lights and the barriers should work in conjunction to warn road users of an approachin train. U.S. regulations state that there must be at least 20 seconds between the barrier closing and the train passing. At this crossing, with a train travelling at the maximum allowed, 79 mph there is a 27 second interval.

There were two box cars on a siding alongside the main running lines. These were loaded with steel rods, creating a formidable obstacle for the passenger cars as they ran amok after the collision. Authorities state that impact with them might have worsened the destruction of the train. Their presence on the line as the truck moved onto the crossing may have obscured the truck drivers view of the oncoming train.

Tyre marks found on the crossing will be examined to see if they can shed any light on the sequence of events.

Earlier reports:

Hidden Dangers - 20% DISCOUNT

VIA Rail passenger train collides with freight cars

30 Jan 2000
No room for complacency on crossings despite fewer accidents

30 Jan 2000
Where does corporate responsibility go now?

29 Jan 2000
71 hurt as trains collide

29 Jan 2000
Metrolink train derailed by oversized load

28 Jan 2000
Prohibition notice upheld by tribunal after Ladbroke Grove railway accident

27 Jan 2000
Passenger and freight trains collide in north west Russia

26 Jan 2000
Montana Rail Link and I&M Rail Link Launch New Highway-Rail Safety Program

21 Jan 2000


Full Coverage

Amid Grief, Probe Intensifies
Chicago Tribune 18/03/99

Amtrak derailment toll climbs to 12
CNN 16/03/99

Amtrak Supports Passengers and Families in Bourbonnais
Amtrak web site

Birmingham Steel Corporation Issues Statement on Illinois Train Accident
Company Press Release

Vehicles on Tracks a Train Problem

National Transportation Safety Board
Home page

Related items

Images from Boubonnais

Explosives train derails

Collision on the Brunswick Line
Silver Spring, Maryland


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created on:   March 19, 1999

Copyright © David Fry 1999

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