NTSB says fatigue, failure to stop contributed to ’05 train wreck

Published 6:37 pm Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The fatigue of a railroad crew, the failure to stop at a signal and the lack of equipment designed to prevent accidents most likely contributed to a deadly train collision in 2005 in Yazoo County, the National Transportation Safety Board said Tuesday.

“This was an accident that could have been prevented,” said NTSB Chairman Mark V. Rosenker. “We will continue to promote and reiterate the importance of having positive train control on our railroad system.”

The NTSB met Tuesday in Washington to review a preliminary report from its staff. The agency’s directors seemed to concur with the report’s findings.

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The four people killed in the collision were all Canadian National Railway Co. crew members — two from each train.

The accident occurred about 4:15 a.m. on July 10, 2005 in Yazoo County when the northbound and southbound freight trains collided on the north side of the bridge on Anding Oil City Road.

The board said the northbound crew “should have been able to see an approach signal and would have had ample time to slow down the train on the main track and be prepared to stop at the next signal.”

However, the NTSB said there was no indication the northbound applied its brakes or slowed down.

Another factor in the crash was a lack of equipment known as a “positive train control” system that could have stopped the northbound train automatically before the collision.

“Also contributing to the accident was the lack of an alerter on the lead locomotive that may have prompted the crew to be more attentive to their operation of the train,” the board said. “Had the crew been incapacitated or not responded to an alarm, the alerter would have automatically applied the brakes and brought the train to a stop.”

The collision resulted in the derailment of 6 locomotives and 17 cars, according to the NTSB report.

About 15,000 gallons of diesel fuel were released from the locomotives and resulted in a fire that burned for about 15 hours, according to the NTSB report.

Killed in the collision were Lee Samuel Jones Sr., 58, of Jackson; Arthur L. “Buddy” Irby, 58, of the Sandhill community of Rankin County; Shannon Purvis, 21, of Puckett; and Mark Cain, 52, of Sallis.

Jones, the conductor, and Irby, the engineer, were on the northbound train out of New Orleans. Cain, the engineer, and Purvis, the conductor, were on the southbound train out of Champagne, Ill.

CN spokesman Jim Kvedaras told The Clarion-Ledger newspaper that the company would not comment until the results of the final investigation are released.