Operator error blamed for 2005 derailment
A massive head-on train collision and derailment last summer in Central California was caused by operator error, Federal investigators report.
The Federal Railroad Administration report, released Friday, also found that a breakdown product of cocaine found in the blood of the train’s conductor may have contributed to the cause of the June 14 accident in Madera County, about 100 miles east of San Francisco.
The FRA report placed sole blame for the accident on the crew of a BNSF train that was traveling south on the line, but went through a signal warning it to the side.
Investigators tested equipment at the site, re-enacted the accident and eventually discredited crew accounts that a signal failed or that glare blinded the crew to a signal.
The freight train, with seven locomotives and 55 cars, began braking after the missed signal, but then struck a northbound freight train with four locomotives and 30 cars.
The combined speed of the two trains created a 60 mph impact, the report said.
Five crewmembers were injured and 24 locomotives derailed, causing more than $5 million in damage. The accident also closed off the state’s main rail arteries for days.
The crewmembers blamed for the accident were not named in the report.