NTSB Releases Preliminary CSX Ohio Crash Report

A National Transportation Safety Board investigation of the August collision of two CSX trains in Ohio is focusing on train crew distractions, crew resource management, and current railroad operating rules for positive train control.

The NTSB this week released a preliminary report on the collision near Carey, Ohio, on the Columbus Subdivision in which local train H702 rammed into the W314, a 110-car frac sand train.

The report said the crash occurred in PTC territory although the locomotive of the local was operating at the time of the early morning incident with its PTC apparatus in restricted mode while the PTC system on the frac sand train had been disabled due to a malfunction.

“The [local] crew’s first job assignment was to set out 30 empty cars in Carey,” the report said.

“CSX instructions specify that for trains operating with active PTC, crews performing pickups, set offs, or other switching activities including shoving movements must: (1) Stop the train/locomotive; (2) Use restricted mode for the PTC system. In restricted mode, the PTC system allows train movement at restricted speed and no longer automatically stops the train before it can violate a red (stop) signal.”

After setting out 30 of his train’s 176 cars the conductor planned to return to the head end aboard a railroad shuttle van.

“The engineer of train H70211 departed with the PTC system still in restricted mode and continued westbound for about 2 miles to CP Springs,” the report said.

“Preliminary event recorder data indicated the train speed never exceeded 20 mph (upper limit threshold of CSX restricted speed rule). The train continued past the red signal at CP Springs and collided with the sixth railcar of the eastbound train W31411.”

The report said the W314’s PTC system had failed while that train was under the control of another crew and had been disabled.

“The crew involved in the accident notified the CSX dispatcher of the disabled PTC system prior to departing Garrett [Indiana] and were given permission to proceed to Columbus, where the system could be repaired,” the NTSB preliminary report says.

The crew of W314 told NTSB investigators that signal indications showed that their train would diverge from the single main track onto main track 2 at CP Springs.

“They stated that they saw the westbound train approaching CP Springs on main track 1 and noted the locomotive headlight was on bright,” the NTSB report said.

“The eastbound train engineer said that he flashed his headlight to indicate to the westbound train engineer to dim the locomotive headlight but received no response.”

After the collision, the lead locomotive of the H702 derailed along with four trash cars. Twenty-one of W314’s frac sand cars, in positions six through 26, derailed.

The engineers of both trains were treated for minor injuries and all crew members of both trains were given drug and alcohol tests.

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