Federal officials investigating the deadly June 24 Amtrak crash near Reno, Nevada, say the train’s engineer sounded the horn at least 4 times before a commercial truck hauling a double trailer ran the crossing gate and crashed into the train, killing six people and injuring 20 others.
The National Transportation Safety Board concluded a five-day investigation at the crash site on October 21. The probe included recreating various dynamics of the crash using a truck and pair of trailers provided by John Davis Trucking, the owner of the truck involved in the crash. Nevada’s Highway Patrol and Transportation Department provided additional support.
Commercial driver Lawrence Valli, 43, was leading a three-truck convoy hauling gravel on U.S. highway 95. The drivers of the other trucks have told investigators that they saw the train approaching and the crossing gate flashing its warning lights, and wondered why Mr. Valli failed to stop.
Mr. Valli slammed on his brakes just short of the crossing gate but not in time to avoid a collision. His truck left a 320-foot skid mark on the road before crashing into the double-decker Amtrak passenger train, which was traveling at 78 mph at the time. The crash killed Mr. Valli, an Amtrak conductor, and four passengers.
According to Reno’s KRNV, the train’s onboard data recorder – the equivalent of a “black box” on an airplane – and microphone attached to the exterior of the train revealed the locomotive’s horn sounded four times. Investigators timed their tests to coincide with the regular Amtrak train schedule to determine how audible the train’s horn would have been to the driver.
The probe also involved an evaluation of the truck’s performance, including the braking system and deceleration characteristics, and a recreation of the skid to determine the dynamics of speed, braking, and stopping distance.
The investigation remains ongoing. The NTSB will hold a board meeting sometime next year in which investigators will present their conclusions and announce a probable cause of the accident according to their findings.
Amtrak has filed a lawsuit against John Davis Trucking of Battle Mountain, Nevada, seeking at least $10 million in damages. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Reno Wednesday afternoon, alleges that John Davis Trucking is liable for damages because either it improperly trained or failed to train altogether the driver who slammed his truck into the train despite properly functioning warning gates and flashing lights at the crossing.