Federal Investigators Say NJ Transit Train Was Speeding When it Crashed

By MICHAEL BALSAMO | October 7, 2016

Federal investigators estimate a commuter train was traveling two to three times the 10 mph speed limit when it slammed into a New Jersey rail terminal last week, a U.S. official told The Associated Press Tuesday.

The official, who was briefed on the investigation, said investigators estimated the train was moving between 20 and 30 mph when it crashed into Hoboken Terminal last Thursday.

The official was not authorized to speak about an ongoing investigation and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.

The speed estimate is based on the extent of damage, not on data from the train’s instruments.

Federal safety investigators said Tuesday afternoon that they had recovered a data recorder, a video recorder and the engineer’s cellphone from the front car of the train. National Transportation Safety Board investigator James Southworth says they don’t yet know if the recorders contain any useful information. The instruments have been sent to an agency lab for analysis.

A second data recorder, which was in the locomotive at the rear of the train, wasn’t functioning on the day of the crash and didn’t record speed, braking or other information about the trip, the NTSB has said.

The cellphone was found in a backpack in the cab of the front train car.

At a briefing Tuesday, NTSB investigator James Southworth declined to address the train’s speed. “We’re not prepared to make that statement right now,” he said.

One woman standing on a platform was killed by debris as the train smashed through a concrete-and-steel bumper and knocked out pillars, causing a section of the station’s outdoor roof to collapse.

More than 100 people were injured.

The train’s engineer, Thomas Gallagher, told investigators that he had no memory of the crash but said he was operating at 10 mph as he approached the station, said T. Bella Dinh-Zarr, the vice chair of the National Transportation Safety Board.

Gallagher, 48, said he only remembered waking up on the floor of the engineer’s cab, Dinh-Zarr said Sunday during the most recent public briefing on the investigation.

Federal regulations require commuter trains to have working recorders. The regulations require they be inspected every 92 days. It was unclear when the nonworking recorder, which officials said was installed in 1995, had been last inspected.

The commuter rail service has not responded to requests for comment.

(Associated Press writer Michael R. Sisak in Philadelphia contributed to this report.)

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