NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Federal investigators said preliminary information revealed that a NJ TRANSIT train that crashed into Hoboken’s terminal was going twice the speed limit at the moment of impact.
The National Transportation Safety Board also said the train’s engineer hit the emergency brake less than a second before the crash.
The information was gleaned from data recorders aboard the train. It was released shortly before investigators removed the train from the scene Thursday night.
The speed limit for the station area is 10 mph.
CBS2’s Jessica Layton reports the NTSB said the train was traveling at 8 mph and sped up for about 30 seconds before hitting 21 mph. That’s a complete contradiction of what engineer Thomas Gallagher told investigators over the weekend as he said he believed the train was going 10 mph.
Investigators said that the event recorder showed the throttle position went from No. 4 to idle just prior to the crash, and then engineer-induced emergency braking occurred less than a second before the collision with the bumping post.
The forward facing video showed the front of the train colliding and overriding the bumping post at the end of the track platform at the terminal. The video caught a large flash as the car collided with the panel just beyond the bumping post.
The NTSB also said the video recorder captured the sound of the train’s horn a minute before the accident.
A final report on what caused last week’s crash, which killed one person and injured more than 100, could take a year or longer to complete.
“No analysis is provided in the facts released from the event and video recorder data extractions. The NTSB has not determined probable cause and cautions against drawing conclusions from these facts alone. Analysis of the findings from these recorders and from other facts gathered during our comprehensive investigation will take place after the factual record is complete,” the NTSB said in a statement.
Commuters coming out of the station from the light rail Thursday night were stunned. But without all the information yet, they were still somewhat sympathetic to the engineer.
“I assume it was an accident,” one man said. “I mean, I can’t imagine that that was intentional.”
“He missed some sort of a control, but like he said, there should have been ways to mitigate that like right there,” a woman said.
The latest revelations came as NJ TRANSIT implemented a new rule Thursday for pulling into two of its stations a week after one of its commuter trains crashed into a terminal, killing a woman on the platform and injuring more than 100 others.
That means a second set of eyes will be watching as a train enters the final phase of its trip at stations where there are platforms at the end of the rails.
The New York Times first reported the policy.
The engineer was alone when the train crashed into the Hoboken station last Thursday. He has told federal investigators the train was entering the station at 10 mph, but he had no memory of the crash.
NTSB investigators recovered the data recorder, a video recorder and the engineer’s cellphone from the front car of the NJ Transit train on Tuesday afternoon. The equipment was sent to an agency lab in Washington for analysis, officials said.
Investigators said it may be a few days before they release the information.
A second event recorder that was retrieved from the locomotive in the rear of the train wasn’t functioning on the day of the crash, officials said.
Some rail-safety experts caution that having a second person in a cab isn’t automatically safer, since crew members can sometimes distract each other.
In 1996 outside Washington, D.C., a commuter train engineer was thought to have been distracted by a conversation with a crew member, causing a crash with an Amtrak train that killed 11 people.
Meanwhile at a vigil across town, candles flickered throughout Columbus Park in Hoboken. It was a place Fabiola Bittar de Kroon enjoyed taking her year and a half old daughter.
The 34-year-old was killed by falling debris from the wreck –standing on the platform at the train station.
“I want us to remember her for all of that she is, and not all that she was, because when I look around at the people standing before me I know that her memory will never fade,” a woman said of Bittar de Kroon at the vigil.
Those mourning the victims a week later were all anxious for answers that were only starting to trickle in from authorities.
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