Crew error was likely to blame for a head-on collision between two Canadian National freight trains that injured all five crew members in northeastern Minnesota in 2010. This was the conclusion reached in a report issued last month by investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board. The September 30, 2010 crash occurred north of Two Harbors derailing three locomotives and 14 rail cars. An estimated $8.1 million in damages resulted. The NTSB concluded the probable cause was the southbound train crew’s error in leaving a siding before the northbound train had passed.
The southbound train, pulling 116 cars loaded with iron ore pellets, did not have authority to operate on the single main track. The northbound train, pulling 118 empty cars, did have authority to operate on the track. The southbound train was supposed to wait until the northbound train had passed, but failed to do so, according to the report.
The trains, according to the report, were operating on a track with no wayside signals to tell engineers whether the track ahead is clear or occupied by another train or work crews. Engineers operating in so-called “dark territory” must rely solely on train dispatchers. The NTSB also noted crew fatigue and “inadequate crew resource management” contributed to the crash. The board said the use of cellphones by crew members on the southbound train and by the engineer on the northbound train “was a distraction to the safe operation of both trains and an indication of a clear disregard” for Canadian National rules and Federal Railroad Administration regulations.
The report said neither the mechanical condition of the trains, the weather, drug or alcohol impairments, nor the actions of the northbound train crew were factors in the accident. Canadian National says it will review the NTSB’s recommendations and prepare a response.
Source: Claims Journal
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