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Accident Report Detail

 
Collision of Missouri Pacific Railroad Company Freight Train Extra 615 South with a Standing Locomotive

Executive Summary

At 8:30 a.m., on Saturday, December 1, 1973, Missouri Pacific Railroad Company freight train Extra 615 South (train DMX) entered Cotulla, Texas. Train DMX was traveling on a nonsignalized main track at a speed of 35 to 40 mph. Just after it passed over a grade crossing, the train was diverted through a switch onto an adjacent track where an unmanned locomotive, a caboose, and 11 cars were standing. Train DMX collided with the standing locomotive before any appreciable braking. The collision derailed all of the locomotive units and 29 railroad cars. Three crew members who were riding in the lead locomotive unit of train DMX were killed.


Probable Cause

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the establishment of a collision route for train DMX by the un-authorized operation of a switch by persons unknown. Contributing to the collision were railroad operating practices which authorize engineers to operate trains at speeds at which they could not stop short of a switch target which indicates the switch is improperly aligned. Contributing to the severity of the collision was the fact that the crewmembers of the locomotive of train DMX did not identify the open switch and apply the train's brakes soon enough to slow the train.


Accident Location: Cotulla , TX    
Accident Date: 12/1/1973
Accident ID: 79786

Date Adopted: 6/27/1974
NTSB Number: RAR-74-03
NTIS Number: PB-234191/AS

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