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Near Grounding of the Liberian Tank Ship Patriot Bay of Campeche, Mexico October 15, 1995
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Event Summary

Board Meeting : Near Grounding of the Liberian Tank Ship Patriot Bay of Campeche, Mexico October 15, 1995
 
4/8/1997 12:00 AM

Excutive Summary

About 6:28 a.m. on Saturday, November 23, 1996, eastbound National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) train No. 12 derailed while crossing Portal Bridge, a swing bridge spanning the Hackensack River in Secaucus, New Jersey. When the train derailed, it sideswiped Amtrak train No. 79, which was crossing the bridge in the opposite direction on an adjacent track. All 12 cars of train No. 12 derailed, with both locomotives, 1 material handling car, and the 3 head passenger coaches coming to rest at the bottom of an embankment at the east end of the bridge. Train No. 79 sustained damage but was able to stop with the entire train intact and on the rails some distance west of Portal Bridge. No fatalities resulted from the accident, but 42 passengers and crewmembers aboard train No. 12 were injured, as was 1 passenger aboard train No. 79. Estimated cost of the damaged train, track, and signal equipment and site cleanup exceeded $3.6 million.

Probable Cause

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the accident was the failure of Amtrak management to foster an environment that promoted adequate inspection, maintenance, and repair of the miter rail assemblies on Portal Bridge and to permanently correct defects in the miter rail side bars that were discovered 10 months before the accident. Contributing to the accident were (1) the failure of the Federal Railroad Administration to develop track inspection standards for special trackwork and to periodically inspect such track as part of its oversight responsibilities and (2) Amtrak’s removal of the miter rail position detection circuitry without installing replacement circuitry or implementing procedures to compensate for the loss of this safety-critical
system.

The two primary safety issues discussed in this report are: (1) Amtrak management oversight of the inspection, maintenance, and repair of the
miter rail assemblies on Portal Bridge; and (2) the effectiveness of Amtrak’s emergency notification procedures. The Safety Board also examined the effectiveness of Amtrak locomotive event recorders in capturing critical operational data.

As a result of its investigation of this accident, the Safety Board makes safety recommendations to Amtrak, to the Federal Railroad Administration, to the Association of American Railroads, and to the American Short Line Railroad Association.


 


 

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