Fatigue Cited in Southeast Missouri Train Crash

January 30, 2015

Erratic shifts and sleep deprivation may have contributed to the 2013 collision of two freight trains in southeast Missouri, according to a report from federal officials.

The accident happened in May 2013 when a 60-car Union Pacific train hit a 75-car Burlington Northern Santa Fe train at the Rockview intersection. Cars were derailed, fire broke out and the overpass gave way. Five automobile passengers on the overpass were injured. A train conductor and engineer were also hurt. None of the injuries was considered serious.

The National Transportation Safety Board found that a Union Pacific conductor and engineer failed to take necessary actions to prevent the collision, the Southeast Missourian reported Sunday. The NTSB report found that their performance may have been compromised by fatigue as a result of working erratic schedules in the days preceding the accident.

Four signals told the UP train to yield to the BNSF train. The report stated there was no indication of tampering with the signals, which were working effectively and were visible from where the UP engineer and conductor were sitting.

According to the report, the conductor told the NTSB he saw the first signal while writing in his logbook and called it out to the engineer, who repeated it back to him. At the second signal, where the train was supposed to slow to 30 mph, the conductor said he had no reason to believe it hadn’t. At that signal, he asked the engineer his speed, and the engineer replied, “30-something,” the conductor told the NTSB.

The conductor told investigators he didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary until the train approached the interlocking. By the third signal, he did not think the train was slowing as it should, and he used the emergency brake valve to stop the locomotive. The UP train struck the passing BNSF train shortly thereafter at a speed of 43 mph, the report stated.

“It is unclear why the conductor did not take action sooner to slow and stop the train,” the NTSB report stated.

Information officer Mark Davis of Union Pacific said his team had not evaluated all the data as of Friday, and he would have more information after speaking with the safety team.

“(We plan to) analyze recommendations (by the NTSB) and determine which ones have already been implemented,” Davis said.

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