(Reuters) – The engineer of an Amtrak passenger train that derailed off a bridge onto a highway near Seattle remarked that the train was speeding six seconds before the accident, U.S. investigators said on Friday.
The engineer then applied the brakes but apparently not the emergency brake, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said in a statement after retrieving and reviewing data from the so-called black box and inward- and outward-facing cameras.
Monday’s crash south of Seattle killed three people and sent about 100 others to the hospital. All 12 cars and one of the two engines jumped the tracks at a curve, sending all of them tumbling from a bridge onto an interstate highway.
The board has said the train was going about 80 miles per hour (129 km per hour), way over the 30-mph speed limit. On Friday it said the final recorded speed of the locomotive was 78 mph.
The train’s video cameras were damaged in the crash but investigators were able to download the contents with the manufacturer’s help at the NTSB lab in Washington, the board said in a statement.
“About six seconds prior to the derailment, the engineer made a comment regarding an over speed condition,” the board said.
“The engineer’s actions were consistent with the application of the locomotive’s brakes just before the recording ended. It did not appear the engineer placed the brake handle in emergency-braking mode,” the board said.
The NTSB statement made no comment about whether the engineer was inattentive or realized the train’s speed too late to avoid the accident.
The cameras did not show the crew using any personal electronic devices, the board said. Such use is of interest since a Southern California Metrolink commuter train crashed into a freight train in 2008, killing 25 people and injuring 111 others. The board determined the engineer was distracted by text messaging.
The recording of Monday’s crash ended as the locomotive was tilting and the crew was bracing for impact, the board said.
A preliminary report on the crash will be available within the coming days and the entire investigation is expected to take one to two years, the board said.
Reporting by Daniel Trotta in New York; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe