An eastbound freight train was going 64 mph and a westbound train was traveling at 38 mph when they crashed head-on and burned last month in the Oklahoma Panhandle, killing three men, the National Transportation Safety Board said in a preliminary report released Monday.
The speed limit for freight trains in the area is 70 mph. The report seemed to agree with a witness account that one of the Union Pacific trains had slowed before the collision at 10:01 a.m. June 24 near Goodwell.
NTSB officials said one of the trains should have taken a side track but that more investigation is needed to determine why this didn't happen.
No malfunction was found in the signals that guide the trains, NTSB spokesman Mark Rosekind said after the wreck.
Both crew members on the eastbound train and one on the westbound train were killed. One person jumped off the westbound train before the collision and survived.
Damage was estimated at nearly $15 million. Fuel tanks from the derailed locomotives ruptured, triggering a diesel fire that sent up a plume of smoke visible for miles.
The eastbound train had four locomotives, three in the lead and one in the rear of the train, and 108 cars of mixed freight. The lead three locomotives and first 24 cars derailed.
The westbound train had three locomotives, two in the lead and one in the rear, and 80 carloads of automobiles. The two lead locomotives and first six cars derailed.
The crew members killed have been identified by the United Transportation Union as conductor Brian L. Stone, 50, of Dalhart, Texas; engineer Dan Hall, 56, of Dalhart, Texas, and westbound train engineer John Hall, 49, of Goodwell, Texas — no relation to Dan Hall.