The Amtrak train involved in a derailment Monday that killed three people was travelling 80 miles per hour in a 30 mph zone in Washington state, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.
NTSB member Bella Dinh-Zarr confirmed during a Tuesday evening press conference that the Amtrak Cascades 501 train, which was carrying 83 people when it derailed Monday, had not been outfitted with “positive train control.”
“Positive train control” is an overlay system designed to stop train derailment, collisions and speeding accidents by enforcing speed control.
Congress mandated all major rail lines be outfitted with PCT in 2008, after two trains in Los Angeles collided head-on, NBCNews reported. The original deadline was the end of 2015, but Congress extended implementation until the end of 2-18, due to the up to $22.5 billion price tag and the complication.
“Could that speed control have made a difference? We don’t know that for sure,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said during a conference.
“None of us, including myself, should be making conclusions about the causes of this accident at the moment,” he added.
Dinh-Zarr, meanwhile, emphasized the NTSB will not release a cause of crash at least until completion of the on-site investigation. She did, however, detail some findings.
Dinh-Zarr said the train’s emergency brake had not been activated by the train’s engineer, but was automatically activated during the accident. At the time of the accident, the engineer was not alone in the cab. A conductor familiarizing himself with the territory accompanied the engineer, while the train’s conductor was intermingling with passengers.
“Distraction is one of our most wanted on our list of priorities. It is protocol to look at all cell records of all crew members,” Dinh-Zarr said.
NTSB and the lead investigator plan to thoroughly interview all crew members once they are medically fit. In the coming days, NTSB will continue to collect information from data recorders, as well as two on-train cameras that have sustained heavy damage.
The on-site investigation could last another seven to 10 days, after which point NTSB will likely still need more time before determining the cause of the crash.