Attorney believes speed caused DuPont train derailment

Dec 18, 2017, 4:24 PM | Updated: 7:02 pm
train derailment...
In this May 13, 2015, file photo, emergency personnel work at the scene of a derailment in Philadelphia of an Amtrak train headed to New York. A preliminary hearing is scheduled Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017, for Brandon Bostian charged in a Philadelphia derailment that killed eight in 2015. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)
(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)
LISTEN: Speed caused DuPont train derailment, says attorney

The Amtrak incident near DuPont is strikingly similar to the 2015 Philadelphia train derailment, according to an attorney in the case that stemmed from it.

“Everybody will tell you that we have to wait this long and that long (for a cause), which is what they did for Amtrak 188 in Philadelphia,” said attorney Robert Mongeluzzi. “Within the first 2 hours I said the train was going too fast – it was. That’s what you are going to find out happened here.”

RELATED: Photos from the scene near DuPont

Mongeluzzi was the attorney who represented 34 passengers from the 2015 Amtrak 188 derailment in Philadelphia. While officials with the National Transportation Safety Board still have to conduct an investigation to determine an exact cause, Mongeluzzi asserts that human error will be the core of the DuPont incident.

It will be 6-12 months before NTSB has a final report — maybe 4 months before an initial report, Mongeluzzi said. Investigators will have to consider black boxes pulled from the wreck to find out the train’s speed, if emergency brakes were used, etc. Mongeluzzi doesn’t know those specifics of the incident, but he has drawn conclusions from initial news reports and looking at video from the scene.

“It is virtually identical to the derailment in Philadelphia that I handled, which was Amtrak 188, which derailed,” Mongeluzzi said. “They were going 106 miles an hour into a 55 mile an hour curve. If you look at the overhead of this (in DuPont), that is a very sharp curve. My guess is that’s a 30-40 mile an hour curve.”

“Any time a train derails on a curve, there is an incredibly high index of probability that it was going too fast,” he said. “If you look at where the locomotive ended up … if you trace the outside of the curve, it keeps going straight and then everything behind it, which would have a higher center of gravity, the passenger cars, derailed behind it.”

A witness who was in the crash told KIRO Radio that he tracked the speed of the train on his smartphone before the crash. Nathan Rich of Federal Way said that it was traveling 82 miles per hour before heading into the curve. Rich was in the fourth car from the end which ended up resting upside-down on I-5.

“We had just gotten done going through the new stretch that parallels the freeway,” Rich said. “And we were noting that, ‘Man we are really booking. We are leaving all these cars behind’ … the last memory I remember of seeing (my phone), it was reading 82 miles an hour.”

The News Tribune reports that speed limit for the train tracks at the curve is 30 mph.

Train derailment prevention

What caused the train derailment is still unknown, but Mongeluzzi said that there is a technology that could have prevented the incident — positive train control.

“What this raises is why there isn’t positive train control protecting the men and women who ride trains …” Mongeluzzi said. “Positive train control would have prevented Amtrak 188 … I think what we are going to learn here is that positive train control … would have prevented this catastrophe.”

“If Congress would make positive train control mandatory and stop extending the deadline so the railroad industry has more time — who just doesn’t want to spend the money – they would prevent these types of catastrophes,” he said. “If they don’t … we will continue to make errors and people are going to get killed and catastrophically injured.”


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Attorney believes speed caused DuPont train derailment