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Government and private agencies at fault in Portage fatal accident
NTSB Report

railtec : Thursday, July 22, 1999
South Shore LineBoth Government and private agencies have been found to be at fault in a collision that killed 3 people travelling in a commuter train when it collided with a truck on a private crossing on 18 June 1998.
A NTSB report published on 13 July 1999 states that problems with the crossing were known to Federal, State and private agencies but no action was taken to correct them.

The accident occurred at a private crossing at the Midwest Steel plant in Portage. It involved an early morning Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District train and a truck loaded with 3 steel coils, each weighing around 19 tons. The truck was waiting for a freight train to pass on tracks owned by Norfolk Southern, but a trailer was still fouling a parallel set of tracks belonging to South Shore RR as the passenger train approached.

In the resulting collision, steel chains securing the coils broke and one of them entered the first car of the South Shore train. It was in this car that the fatalities occurred.

In its report, the NTSB says that the probable cause of the collison was

" was ineffective action by Federal, State, and private agencies to permanently resolve safety problems at the Midwest Steel grade crossing, which they knew to be a hazardous crossing." (NTSB, 1999)
The report also comment on the poor visibility of the truck to the train's engineer and the integrity of the railcars in a collision as well as the safety of private grade crossings generally. The report makes a number of recommendations which address all these points.
  1. when providing funding for, or requiring the implementation of, safety improvements, the US Department of Transportation should not differenitate between private and public grade crossings
  2. the FRA should investigate weld quality inadequacies of Nippon Sharyo, builders of the railcars.
  3. the FRA should require an improvement in inspection procedures of the welds
  4. the RR should inspect and repair any problem welds in these cars
  5. all involved parties should work together to eliminate the safety problems at the Midwest Steel crossing.
Accidents on the South Shore Line causing passenger fatalities:
June 19, 1909 Head-on collision at Wilson killing 12 and injuring 52.
January 18, 1993 Two trains collided at Gauntlet Bridge after one of them ignored a red light. Seven people were killed

NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD (13 July 1999)Abstract of Final Report: Fatal Grade Crossing Collision Involving Commuter Train Portage, Indiana July 18, 1998


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