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Freight train barreled through stop signal before fatal Goodwell crash, NTSB says

The National Transportation Safety Board still is searching for reasons why a two-person crew failed to respond to track signals before causing a head-on collision that killed three people last June in Oklahoma.
by Chris Casteel Published: February 26, 2013

The two crew members on the westbound train had slowed at signals and noticed shortly before the collision that something was wrong with the other train; one of the crew members jumped out before the collision and survived.

Drug tests on the surviving crew member were negative; tests couldn't be taken on the crew members killed because of the severity of the fire after the collision.

According to documents released Tuesday, a truck driver traveling parallel with the eastbound train said the train's horn activated for railroad crossings as they approached Goodwell but that he could not see anyone in the cab.

He said he was going about 68 mph and that the train was doing about the same speed, though it slowed a little about 3 miles from impact.

After the collision, the front of the eastbound train jumped 2 to 3 feet in the air, according to the truck driver, who felt the heat from the explosion and fire on his face through his closed window.

Violations declining

Robert Grimalia, vice president for safety and security for Union Pacific, said there were 95 cases at the rail company last year of stop signal violations, though a portion occurred during tests. The Goodwell incident was the only one in which a violation resulted in a crash, he said.

Crew members responsible for violations are suspended, initially for 30 days, he said.

Grimalia said there had been a gradual decline in the violations, which he attributed to company education programs.

Lauby, with the Federal Railroad Administration, said there were a total of 372 stop signal violations reported in 2011 by Class I railroads, which was down from 456 in 2005. Despite the reduction, he said, there were still “way too many.”

“We are not seeing a dramatic decrease in stop signal violations or speed signal violations,” he said.

by Chris Casteel
Washington Bureau
Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. After covering the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City, he moved to Washington in 1990, where...
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