The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is on the scene of the crash of two trains in Arkansas that has left at least five people in critical condition. It has been reported that a passenger train operated by the Arkansas and Missouri Railroad as an historic excursion tour from Springdale to Van Buren, Arkansas broke down during its tour and a second repair train came looking for the broken down train in an effort to help fix the problem. The area of track in which it was operating was one that was in a “dark” area, meaning that the track is not remotely controlled by signals or automated switches and train sensing devices, and thus the location of trains operating on the track is not discernable via sensed systems. The “rescue” repair train reportedly came around a corner too fast to stop and slammed into the stalled passenger excursion tour train head-on, injuring about 36 of the 44 passengers and sending at least five to the hospital with critical injuries. The NTSB will likely be getting event recorders from the two trains, electronic data recording devices similar to black boxes on aircraft, which would be analyzed at its Washington, D.C. headquarters by the weekend, as well as radio communications records, so some early train motion and crew action data may be made available by that government agency soon. The NTSB go-to team, headed by railroad investigator-in-charge Jim Southworth and Board Member Mark Rosekind, will likely be looking into the communications between the two trains, human factors issues such as fatigue and sleep history, any train position locating equipment and the speed policies for the corner area of track that the trains were traveling on, the reasons that this area of track was still “dark” and without the protective features of modern controlled track, as well as maintenance records and practices that may have led to the initial breakdown of the tour train, said Kevin P. Durkin, partner at Clifford Law Offices who has handled a number of railroad crash cases throughout the country and is experienced in this area of liability.
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