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A look at 5 recent Amtrak derailments

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Over 80 passengers and crew members were aboard an Amtrak train in Washington state Monday morning when, while on the inaugural run of a new route, the train derailed, killing three people.

This was the latest Amtrak accident in recent years.

Here are five recent derailments involving Amtrak trains, from Washington state to the Northeast.

May 12, 2015: Pennsylvania

A New York-bound Amtrak train derailed near Philadelphia on the night of May 12, 2015, killing eight people and injuring more than 200.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said the train was traveling at 106 mph in an area where the speed is restricted to 50 mph.

That segment of the track just north of Philadelphia at the time lacked positive train control, a safety technology that, among other things, is designed to automatically slow trains that are traveling too fast, according to the NTSB. Amtrak has since fully implemented the technology throughout the Northeast corridor.

Federal safety regulators said last year that the engineer, Brandon Bostian, was likely distracted by radio traffic about an emergency situation on a train in the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) system. Bostian had just passed a SEPTA train with a shattered windshield and was “very concerned” about its engineer, who had requested medical attention, according to a transcript of his interview with the NTSB.

With his attention diverted, Bostian likely “lost track of where he was” and didn’t realize the reduced speed limit to accommodate a curve, the NTSB said last year.

Amtrak said last year it would “quickly implement” the NTSB’s recommendations after a review.

Oct. 5, 2015: Vermont

The morning of Oct. 5, 2015, an Amtrak train traveling from St. Albans, Vermont, to Washington, D.C., derailed over an embankment near Northfield, Vermont.

Seven people were injured.

March 14, 2016: Kansas

In the early morning of March 14, 2016, an Amtrak train heading from Los Angeles to Chicago derailed in southwest Kansas, injuring over 30 people.

Investigators said a feed truck had hit the track, causing it to shift about 12 to 14 inches before the derailment.

The engineer was “quite vigilant” and noticed the misalignment on the track and pulled the emergency brake, which was likely the reason the derailment was not “worse,” NTSB spokesman Earl Weener said at a news conference.

The train was traveling at 60 mph, the normal speed limit.

The case is ongoing.

April 3, 2016: Pennsylvania

On April 3, 2016, an Amtrak train with over 300 passengers on board was heading from New York to Savannah, Georgia, when it partially derailed in Chester, Pennsylvania, after striking a backhoe that was on the tracks.

Two maintenance works were killed and over 30 passengers were injured.

After a 19-month investigation, the NTSB last month identified 20 different factors that contributed to the crash.

Investigators said Amtrak had a “weak safety culture” where employees frequently took shortcuts and put on-time performance over safety. The NTSB had previously disclosed toxicology reports indicating marijuana in the system of the train’s engineer and cocaine or opioids in the systems of the maintenance workers who died, but it did not conclude that the employees were impaired at the time of the crash.

While drug use did not have a “direct causal link to this accident,” according to investigators, it is a reflection of a lax safety culture at Amtrak, they said.

Railroad repairs were ongoing in the days leading up to the fatal accident. A night foreman was found to have lifted a track safety closure while a backhoe remained on the track. The day foreman did not restore the closure, according to investigators, leading to a train’s striking the backhoe at nearly 100 mph.

NTSB chairman Robert Sumwalt described the mistake by the foremen as “the fundamental error of the night.”

Among the contributing factors in the crash were lack of communication between employees, the improper establishment of work zones and pressure from managers to keep trains on time.

Positive train control had been installed in the Northeast corridor where the crash occurred, but investigators said a series of human errors, such as not properly establishing the work zone, circumvented the technology.

The engineer of the involved train was fired after the accident because of his toxicology report, according to the NTSB.

Amtrak has “taken a series of actions to improve workplace safety,” company spokeswoman Kimberly Woods told ABC News last month.

Woods would not say whether the foremen who mistakenly left the occupied track open were still working for Amtrak.

Dec. 18, 2017: Washington state

An Amtrak train from Seattle to Portland was on the inaugural run of a new route when it derailed Monday morning near Dupont, Washington, about 20 miles south of Tacoma.

All but one of the train’s 14 cars jumped the tracks, killing three people on board the train, officials said.

Five cars and two semitrailers on the freeway below were struck by the train, but no one on the highway was killed.

More than 90 people were taken to hospitals, including 10 who were treated for serious injuries, officials said.

The train was traveling at 80 mph just prior to derailing, despite being in a 30-mph zone. Investigators have yet to interview the crew and engineer in the accident, and were unsure of why the train was going so fast.

The derailed train was the first to carry paying customers on a new route for Amtrak. This track had carried freight trains, but was recently upgraded to carry passengers. In a news release last week, Amtrak said using this route would allow for two more daily round-trips between Seattle and Portland and help trains avoid traveling around tight corners and tunnels. The state Department of Transportation said Monday “was the first day of public use of the tracks after weeks of inspection and testing.”

Amtrak said in a statement Monday, “there is a thorough investigation underway to determine what happened. The investigation will be conducted by the NTSB, and we will cooperate fully with all authorities. At this time, we will not speculate about the cause, and we encourage others not to speculate as well.”

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of life and injuries,” Amtrak said, adding, “We will do everything in our power to support these passengers, our employees and their families.”

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Source: ABC National News

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