O’Ban condemns chain of failure, lack of accountability that led to Amtrak train derailment in DuPont

Sound Transit, Amtrak and Washington State Department of Transportation set train engineer up to fail, says National Train Safety Board Chairman

OLYMPIA…Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-Pierce County, issued the following statement in response to the scathing report issued today by the National Train Safety Board (NTSB) about the conditions and events that led to the 2017 derailment of an Amtrak passenger train in DuPont.

Three people died in the derailment of the inaugural run of the new Lakewood Subdivision.  The NTSB put the ultimate responsibility for this primarily on the shoulders of Sound Transit, as well as Amtrak and the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT).

“I’m appalled at the incompetence and complete lack of accountability that created the chain of failure that day,” said O’Ban. “The NTSB stated unequivocally that if Sound Transit had done its proper due diligence, the accident would not have happened. Its risk assessment report was woefully incomplete – its oversight virtually non-existent. As the host railroad, it’s up to them to ensure safety.

“The chairman of the NTSB said today that the engineer was set up to fail – and fail he did by going 87 mph in an area marked for 30 mph and by not paying attention to the warning signs or slowing down. In his statement, the engineer said that they all knew that corner and hated it. Amtrak failed him by, among other things, not providing adequate training. He only ran the southbound route of that new territory ONCE and it was in the dark. He didn’t even know enough to recognize the warning alarm system going off in the train. But he knew about the hazard and sped right toward it.

“It’s also clear that, among the failures leading up to that day was the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) granting only four days before the accident of an exemption to Amtrak for the requirement to have Positive Train Control (PTC) installed. If safety is the FRA’s paramount concern, why was Amtrak granted this exemption?

“The victims of this accident were let down by a careless system of bureaucracy that dropped the ball again and again. Was lack of funding a cause? Not according to the NTSB.”