Two BNSF Railway Co. trains collided head-on in Panhandle, Texas, last month after one of the trains missed a stop signal, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) announced yesterday in a preliminary report.
Three crew members died when the eastbound and westbound trains collided at 8:21 a.m. June 28 in BNSF's Panhandle Subdivision. The collision caused the derailment of the locomotives and several cars from both trains, and resulted in a significant fire.
Train movements in the area are governed by signal indications of a traffic control system. Positive train control (PTC) was not operating in the area at the time of the accident, but is scheduled to be implemented by BNSF by the end of this year, the report stated.
Each train was crewed by a locomotive engineer and a conductor. The eastbound train consisted of three head-end locomotives, two distributive power units and 56 loaded cars. The westbound train consisted of five head-end locomotives and 54 loaded cars.
The signal system was lined to route the westbound train into the Panhandle control point siding at milepost 536.1, while holding the eastbound train on the main track before the east end of the siding. The collision occurred about one-half mile east of the east switch of the Panhandle siding, according to the report.
A preliminary review of signal event recorder data and tests of the signal system indicated that the last signal the eastbound train passed before the collision was a red stop signal. The previous signal the eastbound train passed was a yellow signal.
The locomotive event recorder data revealed that the eastbound train was traveling 62 mph when it passed the yellow light at the west end of the Panhandle siding and about 65 mph when it passed the red light at the siding's east end.
The engineer and conductor on the eastbound train and the conductor on the westbound train were killed. The engineer of the westbound train jumped from the train before the impact and survived with injuries.
BNSF estimated damages of $16 million.
Investigators completed sight distance tests of the signal systems for both trains into the collision point and the results are being analyzed, the NTSB said. Event and video recorders have been sent to the NTSB labs in Washington, D.C., for further investigation.