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NTSB: Truck driver's inattention led to Amtrak's 2016 derailment in Kansas

An unattended truck rolled downhill and struck the tracks, causing a lateral shift that led to the derailment.
Photo – Federal Railroad Administration

A truck driver's failure to properly secure his unattended truck led to an Amtrak derailment that occurred in March 2016 near Cimarron, Kansas, according to the National Transportation Safety Board's (NTSB) latest briefing on the accident.

The day before the incident, the unattended truck rolled downhill and struck BNSF Railway Co. tracks, causing them to misalign. The Amtrak train then crossed the misaligned tracks and derailed.

Also contributing to the accident: The truck driver and his supervisor neglected to report the incident to the local authorities, according to the NTSB's briefing, which was released late last week.

"Railroads are not required to post emergency contact numbers other than at grade crossings," NTSB officials said in the report. "In situations such as this one, the correct approach is to call 911 and report the concern. Using this approach, local emergency officials can notify the railroad about any potential issue with its equipment."

Twenty-eight people were injured in the incident. Amtrak and BNSF have estimated the damage cost at more than $1.4 million.

The Los Angeles-to-Chicago train, which had two locomotives and 10 cars, was operating on BNSF's La Junta Subdivision.

In the NTSB's preliminary report in April 2016, investigators stopped short of blaming the truck for the derailment. Still, NTSB officials had observed that the left and right mounting brackets on the truck were broken, and that the tread on the truck matched tire track impressions at the scene.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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