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Barry Doyle
Barry Doyle
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Video of Chicago Amtrak crash shows train speeding

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One of the unusual features of the recent Chicago Amtrak crash is that the event was captured on video. In most personal injury cases, descriptions of the events come entirely from eyewitnesses who may describe the same event in very different ways.

IThe Norfolk Southern security shows the violence of the train crash as the Amtrak train smashes into the back of the stopped freight train.

Other news accounts have indicated that the Amtrak engineer had been certified for only three months, and was traveling at nearly 40 miles per hour on the track where the collision took place. The signal that he had received for that track restricted his speed to no more than 15 miles per hour. After dropping his speed to 8-9 miles per hour, he increased his speed again to 40 miles per hour shortly before the crash.

The increase in speed is a key factor on this crash. One of the things that the video shows is that he was in a “canyon” of train cars — meaning that there were freight cars on either side of him. Since he was coming out of a curve, the combination of the curve and the other train cars would have obstructed his view of the train stopped ahead of him. He simply could not see the freight train until he was right on top of it, and at the speed he was travelling, he could not stop before hitting it.

The investigation to date has answered one question regarding the responsibility for the accident. However, the other question has not been answered: why was the Amtrak train was cleared to go down that track when dispatch should have known that there was a freight train stopped there?

For more information on this subject, please refer to the section on Mass Transit Accidents.