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Deadliest U.S. rail disaster in 15 years caused by "Engineer error"

Discussion in 'The OT' started by Steve615, Sep 14, 2008.

  1. Steve615

    Steve615 Hall Of Fame

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    A commuter train engineer who ran a stop signal set off a chain of events that has created the nation's deadliest rail disaster in 15 years.The commuter train collided with a freight train in Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley area last Friday.There have been 25 confirmed fatalities as a result of the wreck,with a total of 135 people injured in the collision.81 people were transported to hospitals in serious or critical condition.A telephone survey of 5 hospitals found 9 patients still listed in critical condition on Saturday.
    More info at the following link.

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/train_collision
     
  2. Christopher Gould

    Christopher Gould Icon

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  3. Richard King

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  4. Steve615

    Steve615 Hall Of Fame

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    I saw that a few minutes ago.
    Without a doubt,a fatal error occured somewhere. :nono:
    I imagine it will take some time for the NTSB to complete their investigation of the events.
     
  5. James Long

    James Long Ready for Uplink! Staff Member Super Moderator DBSTalk Club

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    Texting while driving is dangerous. While I agree that 19 hours is too quick to be rushing to judgment, I also believe that too many people are jumping to an early defense. The early evidence supports the conclusion ... the system shows the light as red and the switch was obviously run through.

    Train signaling isn't your normal traffic light that goes through cycles of stop and go regardless of traffic or even the fancier lights that stop traffic on a main street only when traffic arrives on a side street. Street lights can be red when there is no danger ... and it is a lot easier to correct from a mistake than in a train.

    Train signaling is red when there is danger. Absolute control from dispatch saying STOP or another train in the path. Absolute stop lights are absolute for a reason. You MUST stop. There is no right turn on red - there is no swerving to avoid opposing traffic.

    There is proof that the engineer was texting while in his train. It only takes a moment to really mess up.
     
  6. veryoldschool

    veryoldschool Lifetime Achiever Staff Member Super Moderator DBSTalk Club

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    Echos of a train crash in England.
    IIRC the system was changed so running a red control light, would cause an automatic stopping of the train.
     
  7. fluffybear

    fluffybear Hall Of Fame DBSTalk Club

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    Another reason there needs to be a coating applied to vehicles which blocks cell signals from getting in. I have always felt that there is no good reason to be using a cell phone or texting while behind the controls of any vehicle.
    I understand California has begun enforcing a law which prohibits the use of cell equipment while operating a motor vehicle but the fines are in the neighborhood of $20 (or so I have been told). Maybe we need to make the first offense, suspended drivers license for 30 days, second offense - 6 months and 3rd offense, 90 days in the county lock-up & 3 years suspended license.
     
  8. fluffybear

    fluffybear Hall Of Fame DBSTalk Club

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    I always thought that was the case here in the USA. I had a behind the scene tour once of the light rail system in LA and understood that if the train runs a red signal that the train will automatically stop but it could take a few seconds before the system actually kicked in and train were to come to a stop.
     
  9. veryoldschool

    veryoldschool Lifetime Achiever Staff Member Super Moderator DBSTalk Club

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    "Light rail" verses "heavy rail".
     
  10. James Long

    James Long Ready for Uplink! Staff Member Super Moderator DBSTalk Club

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    There are heavy rail systems in the US with in cab signaling and the potential to stop a train that runs a red. I don't know if the line this incident occurred on had that type of system.

    If such a system is in place it either needs to stop the offending train BEFORE it crosses into a dangerous location or be able to stop the opposing train. Many times the final absolute red signal is closer to the end of safety than the stopping distance of the train. Once that red is run the train isn't likely to be able to stop in time --- and then once stopped that may not be able to move back due to design or damage to the tracks caused by running the red.

    Meanwhile the opposing train is running green signals that won't trip to red until the red light running train goes past the signal. There may not be a signal between where the opposing train was and the offending train to give it any warning. A perfect warning system would immediately alert the opposing train and call an ALL STOP.

    All this technology is subject to problems. It would be easier if engineers just did their jobs and followed the signals.
     
  11. djlong

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    Spare me. You get far more crashes from people eating while driving to say nothing of drunk drivers.

    And before we rush to judgement about text messaging, there are phones that will. with the press of one button, reject an incoming phone call with a text message (basically sending an "I'm busy" text message). It would be interesting indeed if we later found out that the engineer had an incoming call and did such a thing. That's one reason not to rush to judgement. I grant you the odds are pretty slim *if* it's true that the phone sent a text message.
     
  12. jclewter79

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    I find it hard to beleive that he "ran a red light" due to text messaging. Thing about a train is you do not steer it, you only have to control stops, starts, and regulate speed. Besides that there is more than one person in the cab of a train, my money is on some type of light malfunction.
     
  13. James Long

    James Long Ready for Uplink! Staff Member Super Moderator DBSTalk Club

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    More than one in a freight train or Amtrak cross country, perhaps, but not these commuter rail trains. One driver is all they get, with conductors for the cars.

    Put the lives of 220 people in one guy's hands? Easily.

    A similar incident occurred a few years ago outside of Chicago on the South Shore line, except the incident involved two passenger trains. One ran a stop where the tracks overlapped to narrow for a bridge. (Not a true single track section, just one where trains could not pass in both directions at the same time.) He stopped late and tried to back up but was too late. One of the passengers who died was a young boy who liked trains and liked to sit near the front of the train for a better view.

    Metrolink seems to be sure of their driver's fault. I doubt if they are basing their statement 100% on the text messaging.
     
  14. djlong

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    The text messaging claim was made by a teenager. We'll see if this pans out.
     
  15. James Long

    James Long Ready for Uplink! Staff Member Super Moderator DBSTalk Club

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    Pretty hard to fake the timing on the text messages ... all three with received times within minutes of the crash. The "experts" are disputing send times vs received times, but this isn't like the teens could go back and magically send themselves messages in the past.

    I spent a couple hours reading about the incident last night including watching the TV report interviewing the teens and showing the messages on the screen. I would not say that the text message was the sole cause of the accident, but no distraction is good when you're operating heavy machinery.

    I've also had a chance to look at the train more ... I didn't realize it had a diesel engine of it's own (which add to the danger in "push" mode). The train was operating in "pull" mode so it was the engine of the commuter train that hit the engines of the freight train, with the back of the commuter train engine being pushed back into the first passenger car of the train before it turned over. The force of the crash was considerable.
     
  16. elaclair

    elaclair Rescued Racers Live Here

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    The "hands-free" law in California, while pretty difficult to enforce, has a first fine of $97 dollars, second fine of $318, and third fine of suspension (I forget how long). The dollar amounts are for San Diego County, but should be similar throughout the state.....Ah the joys of sitting and waiting for Jury Duty...you pick up the most interesting little tidbits from the staff.:)
     
  17. Steve615

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    Investigators have confirmed that the engineer involved in the fatal crash was text-messaging while on duty the day of the crash.
    California regulators reacted to the news by issuing an emergency order yesterday,banning train operators from using cell phones while on duty.

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080919/ap_on_re_us/train_collision
     
  18. Steve615

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  19. fluffybear

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    Maybe it's time we got back to concentrating to what we are doing by being behind the wheel and spend less time feeding our faces, applying make-up, and using the phone while driving.

    Let us not forget that driving while intoxicated/under the influence is a punishable crime.
     
  20. fluffybear

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    Sounds like this one was the bus drivers fault. He turned in front of the train. My guess is he probably did not want to wait and thought he could get across the tracks in time.
     

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