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March 14, 2008
Update: Probe of Amtrak fatal could take up to year
PROVIDENCE -- A three-investigator team from the National Transportation Safety Board will try to figure out why a northbound Amtrak Acela train struck three workers in Providence yesterday, killing one and injuring two others.
The investigators will spend about a week on scene in Providence, but it could be nine months to a year before they issue a report on the accident's probable cause, Ruben Payan, NTSB lead investigator, said at a news conference this afternoon.
Payan described the area just north of the Providence station -- and Acela stop -- as having a "sharp curve" and said whether that played a role will be part of the investigation.
The train was on a stretch of track bounded on both sides by sloping ground leading up to a chainlink fence. When it came to a stop, part of the train had passed under the Charles Street overpass, where the corridor narrows.
Among other things, the NTSB team will do interviews and review the Acela train's event recorder, which Payan likened to an airplane's black box. The recorder should indicate such factors as the train's speed, use of brakes and whether any warnings were given. Amtrak said yesterday that the train was going below the authorized speed limit of 55 mph on that stretch of track.
This morning, Amtrak today identified the man who was killed as a contract employee with an architectural engineering firm. Gary Graves, who worked for HNTB Holdings, of Kansas City, Mo., was struck at about 1:15 p.m. yesterday while he and two other workers were inspecting the tracks, according to Tracy Connell, an Amtrak spokeswoman.
The cause of Graves' death was multiple blunt traumatic injuries, the state Office of the Medical Examiners office said this afternoon. The office identified Graves as being from Delaware.
The other two workers were Amtrak employees but their names have not been released. One was seriously hurt and the other was treated and released from a hospital, according to Randal Brassell, an official with a union representing Amtrak workers.
As policy, the National Transportation Safety Board does not identify people who are injured or killed in incidents it probes, leaving that to the transportation company involved or local hospitals. An Amtrak official, Michael DeCataldo Jr., who attended the news conference refused to answer questions, deferring to a company spokesman.
Pressed at the news conference on what procedures were in place and were they followed, Payan offered few specifics and said that determining that will be part of the investigation.
-- projo.com staff writer Michael P. McKinney
Asked if any of those involved had undergone substance tests, Payan said he needed to check with the NTSB official who handles that aspect. While the NTSB is lead investigator, the Federal Railroad Administration is doing its own investigation.
No one on board the train was hurt and passengers remained on the train until it continued on its way 2 1/2 hours later. According to Connell, there were 162 passengers and 6 crew members on board.
The incident drew Amtrak police, city police and fire and rescue workers, state medical examiners office staff and, for a time, Mayor David N. Cicilline.
A green tarp was placed over part of the side of the sixth or seventh car while recovery personnel worked from underneath to remove the person who had been killed.
Amtrak service in the area in both directions was halted for about 2½ hours yesterday while the Acela remained just north of the Providence rail station. At 3:48 p.m. yesterday, service was resumed, Amtrak said in a statement sent at 4:15 p.m. The train, number 2154, was also released and continued on to Boston.
Posted by Mike McKinney at 4:18 PM | Permalink
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