Federal investigators said they have recovered a data recorder from the rear of the New Jersey TRANSIT commuter train that crashed inside the Hoboken train station Thursday morning, injuring more than 100 people and killing one woman.
National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigators should be able to extract information from the data recorder about the train’s speed and braking. They are also trying to extricate another recorder from the heavily damaged front controlling car without damaging it, which could provide additional clues.
So far, nobody knows what caused the NJ TRANSIT Pascack Valley Line to enter the train terminal at a high speed. Several witnesses said the train the failed to slow as it approached the station, maintaining speed until it hit a bumper that sent it flying onto the platform and crashing into the waiting area wall.
Fabiola Bittar de Kroon, a 34-year-old attorney who had just moved to the U.S. with her husband and daughter, was killed by falling debris when train’s impact caused the station roof to partially collapse. CBS New York reported that she had just dropped her daughter off at daycare before rushing to catch a train.
Two cameras in the front and back of the train, as well as other surveillance video, may provide additional clues.
NTSB vice chairwoman T. Bella Dinh-Zarr told CBS News that while investigators work to access the damaged cars, it is looking at maintenance records and employment records and arranging interviews with crew members.
Much of the NTSB’s focus is on the engineer who was driving the train when it crashed. Thomas Gallagher, 48, of Morris Plains, N.J., has been employed by NJ Transit for 19 years and has been driving trains with it for more than half that time. His reputation at work and his record are considered excellent, CBS News reported.
Mr. Gallagher was critically injured in the crash but has since been released and is talking with investigators.
Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer, who was also at the crash scene Thursday, told CBS News that positive train control (PTC), a speed regulating device that would have prevented the crash, needs to be installed in the trains “as quickly as possible.”
The NTSB has found lack of PTC devices to be a contributing factor in 25 crashes it investigated in the past 20 years.
“The industry is under government orders to install PTC, but the deadline has been repeatedly extended by regulators at the request of the railroads. The deadline is now the end of 2018,” CBS News reported.
Mayor Zimmer noted that a previous NJ TRANSIT crash in Hoboken five years ago was caused by an engineer who failed to slow the train as it entered the station, injuring dozens of people.
“In 2011 when the crash happened in Hoboken, what came out of the NTSB report was that the positive control system could have made a difference,” Mayor Zimmer told CBS News.