Federal safety investigators were dispatched to the Philadelphia area Sunday to investigate the crash of an Amtrak train that killed two railroad employees when it collided with a backhoe on the tracks in Chester, Penn.
Amtrak’s Train 89 traveling from New York City to Savannah, Ga., partially derailed when it hit the backhoe shortly before 8 a.m. just south of the Philadelphia international Airport. In addition to the two worker deaths, the impact sent more than 30 passengers to local hospitals.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Railroad Administration (FAA) will head the investigation. It remains unclear as to whether the backhoe was supposed to be on the live track or whether the train had failed to stop or had been traveling on the wrong track.
The NTSB said Monday that it would be looking at track structure, signals, dispatchers, and other variables that may have contributed to the crash.
Amtrak reported the train was carrying about 331 passengers and seven crew members.
The Chester Police Department told the press that the collision forced the lead engine car off the tracks. Most of the people injured were passengers in first passenger car immediately behind the engine. Injuries included lacerations, bruising, and back and neck injuries.
The Amtrak crash once again raises the question of why the railroad doesn’t make safety improvements the NTSB has previously called for and why safety measures Amtrak has taken fail to work.
Last May, Amtrak Northeast Regional Train 188 derailed just a few miles north of this week’s crash, killing eight people and injuring nearly all of the train’s 243 passengers and five crew members, many of them critically.
That derailment, which occurred when the train rounded a sharp curve at an excessive speed, also prompted safety officials to push for Positive Train Control (PTC) , a GPS-based safety technology that helps the train to avoid collisions with other trains, over-speed derailments, unauthorized incursion into work zones, track obstacles, and train deviation onto the wrong track through switches left in the wrong position. PTC also controls train movement in the event of human error and natural disaster.
ABC News reports that Amtrak installed PTC on some trains after the derailment in Philadelphia last year, raising further questions about why a train equipped with the safety device would crash.