The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) voted on May 17th to assign blame for last year’s devastating Amtrak derailment near Philadelphia, PA. In a 3-1 ruling, they assigned blame to the engineer after finding that the operator’s failure to notice that Train 188 had reached speeds of 106 mph when it hit a 50 mph curve just north of Philadelphia’s 30th street station before crashing.
The sole dissenting vote was cast by board Vice Chairwoman T. Bella Dinh-Zarr, who proposed shifting primary blame to the lack of Positive Train Control (PTC), state-of-the-art GPS technology that would activate braking when it determined the train was moving too fast for the approaching curve.
“Positive train control would have provided this critical redundancy that would have prevented the accident,” Dinh-Zarr said. “The government and industry have not acted for decades on a well-known safety hazard.”
Her proposal to boost the lack of the technology to “probable cause” rather than list it as “contributing factor” was defeated with a 3-1 vote, with board members and NTSB staff investigators arguing that other trains travel across America without crashing every day, and don’t use PTC technology.
Even after voting down the Vice Chairwoman’s proposal, the NTSB admitted that modern technology could have prevented the crash. NTSB investigator Ted Turpin said that “we would not be here today” if PTC technology was in place.
The NTSB found that radio chatter about rocks thrown at a Southern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) engineer distracted Train 188’s engineer, Brandon Bostian.
The train derailment on May 12, 2015 resulted in eight deaths and about 200 injuries.