Report: Train engineer saw problem with tracks before accident

A Metro-North engineer saw something wrong with the tracks shortly before his train derailed and was struck by another on the Fairfield/Bridgeport border on Friday, May 17, according to a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

The engineer of the eastbound train, which derailed, told investigators he saw “what he described as an unusual condition” as he approached an Interstate 95 overpass shortly after 6 p.m. that Friday.

Investigators also learned from April inspection reports that the maintenance was performed near where the derailment occurred.

“The records revealed that a joint bar, used to join two sections of rail together, was cracked and that it was repaired by Metro-North personnel,” according to a release from the NTSB.

“Sections of rail in the area of the derailment have been removed and shipped to the NTSB materials laboratory in Washington for further examination,” the release continued. “In addition, Metro-North is conducting an inspection and inventory of all the joint bars on its main line tracks.”

Westbound train struck derailed eastbound train

On-board recorders show that the eastbound train derailed, came to a stop and was struck “about 20 seconds later” by the westbound train, according to the NTSB.

Shortly after the crash, Fairfield First Selectman Michael Tetreau said the first car of the eastbound train remained on the track, but subsequent cars derailed.

Recorders show that the engineer of the westbound train applied the brakes before impact, the NTSB reported.

The NTSB “go-team” left Bridgeport Thursday, according to the release, after they “collected photos, video, data, reports and records, and other evidence; completed mechanical inspections of the rail cars, the track and signal system; interviewed several Metro-North employees, witnesses and first responders; and thoroughly documented the accident site.”

Role of technology control system

Investigators did say that positive train control (PTC) would likely not have prevented the collision.

PTC is a technology that prevents two trains, traveling on a single track, from colliding with one another, the NTSB explained.

“The Metro-North trains involved in this accident were traveling on two separate but parallel tracks,” according to the NTSB release “The collision occurred after the eastbound train derailed. Because the trains were not traveling on a single track, it is not believed that PTC would have prevented the accident.”

Here is a link to the NTSB report: