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Human error blamed in Montgomery County train wreck

Report: Engineer ignored red light

Tuesday, September 3, 2013
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State and local officials assess the damage resulting from a collision of two CSX freight trains June 27 in the town of Mohawk, a mile west of Fonda, that included cars being thrown onto Route 5.
Photographer: Marc Schultz
State and local officials assess the damage resulting from a collision of two CSX freight trains June 27 in the town of Mohawk, a mile west of Fonda, that included cars being thrown onto Route 5.

— The double train derailment that sent four locomotives and 45 freight cars into a ditch west of Fonda in June was caused by the railroad equivalent of a driver running a red light, according to a CSX report.

CSX Corp. posted the results of its internal investigation to the Federal Railroad Administration website over the holiday weekend. According to the report, a westbound CSX freight train was crossing from track 1 to track 2 at 7:55 a.m. June 27, temporarily occupying both sets of tracks as it crossed over, as an interlocking signal system red-lighted eastbound train traffic to prevent collisions. Another CSX freight train went right through the red light as it traveled east toward Fonda, however, according to the report.

CSX spokesman Robert T. Sullivan could not be reached Tuesday for further details such as collision speed, external factors or the current employment status of the engineer who ran the red light.

The trains were going fast enough when they collided to launch cars and locomotives into Route 5, which runs parallel to the tracks.

The investigation report came just as the section of Route 5 damaged first by the derailment and then by CSX repair crews was temporarily reopened. According to state Department of Transportation spokesman Jim Piccola, Route 5 between Hickory Hill and Reservoir roads was opened late Tuesday morning.

The road’s concrete foundation — broken by weeks of maneuvering by heavy equipment as CSX cleaned up the train wreck — remains damaged. More than a half-mile of Route 5 will have to be totally rebuilt by CSX contractors Rifenburg Construction at a later date.

Piccola said the road was lightly resurfaced and opened to avoid delaying school buses.

“We’ll sit down later this week with Rifenburg and figure out a more permanent construction schedule,” he said.

The road could eventually be narrowed to one alternating lane of traffic or closed entirely for short periods between peak travel times. The plan is still up for discussion.

Piccola couldn’t say how much the roadwork will cost CSX, but the incident already has been costly for the railroad. The CSX report listed the accident as costing nearly $2 million in equipment damage and another nearly $500,000 in damage to the tracks.

Federal Railroad Administration spokesman Mike England said Tuesday the report is a document required to be filed by CSX.

“We’re conducting our own ongoing investigation,” he said. “These things usually take us three to six months.”

As with all train derailments, there is a chance civil fines will be leveled against the rail company, or corrective action may be ordered.

 
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