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 Rail Accident

 

Railroad Passenger Accident Investigations

 

 Other Rail Accident Investigations

 


Photo of a passenger train.

Railroad Passenger Accident Investigations

Family assistance operations coordinated by the NTSB may be required for major rail passenger accidents involving interstate or intercity rail passenger or high-speed rail transport operators excluding commuter, tourist, historic, scenic, freight, or excursion rail operators. Family assistance operations may be established near the accident location when the Rail Passenger Disaster Family Assistance Act (2008) is activated by the NTSB.

If you are a survivor, family, or friend involved in or affected by a rail passenger accident, please contact the railroad passenger operator immediately to ensure access to available services. You can also contact the TDA Division directly for assistance or call 202-314-6185.

Please review the NTSB TDA Information for Survivors, Families, and Friends Brochure for Major Passenger Rail Accidents
that describes what survivors, family, and friends can expect during a rail passenger investigation by the NTSB and additional details related to assistance available.

 


Photo of a commuter train.

 Other Rail Accident Investigations

Railroad accident investigations typically refer to investigations involving passenger and freight railroads, and commuter transit systems in the United States.

Please review the NTSB TDA Information for Survivors, Families, and Friends Brochure
that describes what survivors, family, and friends can expect throughout a railroad accident investigation by the NTSB and additional details related to the information provided on this webpage.

 

Assistance for Railroad Accident Investigations

Although there is no requirement for the NTSB TDA Division to respond to railroad accidents, TDA Specialists work with the NTSB’s Investigator-In-Charge (IIC) who is responsible for leading the safety investigation, and local and state agencies to coordinate assistance and information for survivors, family, and friends, either by telephone or on-scene if launched to the accident location. The NTSB TDA Division remains a primary point of contact to survivors, family, and friends during the course of the investigation and provides updates on the release of information associated with the investigation.

 

Short-term Counseling & Referrals

Short-term emotional support services and referrals are available at the request of survivors, families, or friends at no cost through our partners, the American Red Cross. Please contact the NTSB TDA Division directly for more information or to request this support.

 

Victim Identification Process

Victim recovery, identification, determination of cause and manner of death, and death certification are the responsibility of the medical examiner or coroner in the jurisdiction where the death occurred. The NTSB TDA Division can provide contact information for the appropriate local authority upon request.

 

Personal Effects

The NTSB may take custody of personal effects like personal electronic devises or other items relevant to the investigation. Depending on condition, these items may be returned to the owner or a designed family member typically at the conclusion of the investigation. Personal effects not collected by the NTSB may be collected by the medical examiner or coroner, law enforcement or another agency involved in the response. The NTSB TDA Division can assist with questions about personal effects retained by the NTSB or provide contact information for other agencies that may have personal effects in their custody if known.

 

Accident Wreckage

The NTSB has the authority to retain control of and manage access to the wreckage involved in the accident during the investigation. Inquiries regarding status of wreckage under NTSB control may be directed to the NTSB TDA Division.

 

Media Interactions

The NTSB does not coordinate interviews with media for family members, friends, or survivors. However, media representatives may attempt to contact you after an accident. The NTSB will not release the identities of victims or survivors of accidents. Such information may be released by the transportation operator involved or local authorities.

 

Railroad Accident Investigation Process

Due to the possible complexity of railroad accidents and the extensive nature of the investigation process, a railroad accident investigation often requires 12 to 24 months to complete. Depending on the circumstances of the accident, the IIC along with other NTSB investigators and party members may travel to the accident site to collect information. The NTSB has the authority to designate organizations, corporations, or agencies as parties to the investigation. Only representatives who can provide technical or specialized expertise are permitted to serve as a party member and report directly to the NTSB. The NTSB will not determine the cause of an accident while on scene.

The following are reports that can be issued during the course of the investigation and accessible on the NTSB’s Railroad Accident Reports webpage:

  • The preliminary report provides a synopsis of factual information collected during the on-scene phase of the investigation. This report is typically available a few weeks after the accident.
  • The final report provides a summary of relevant factual information, analysis, findings, probable cause, and safety recommendations issued or reiterated as a result of the investigation; or an accident brief that consists of a short accident narrative, probable cause, and if issued, safety recommendations. Briefs are normally limited to factual information but may contain analysis. The report or brief replaces the preliminary report and is typically available 12 to 24 months following the accident.

An accident docket contains relevant factual information collected during an accident investigation that is used in the development of reports, briefs, and safety recommendations. The docket is available to access at an appropriate time during the investigation, or at its conclusion.

If safety recommendations or safety alerts are issued because of an investigation, these can be issued at any time during the investigation process.

 

Staying Informed

If you are requesting information related to a railroad accident investigation, please complete an Investigation Update Request Form or contact the NTSB TDA Division for additional assistance.