News & Reviews News Wire Preliminary report: NS engineer was killed when locomotive was hit by rolling railcars

Preliminary report: NS engineer was killed when locomotive was hit by rolling railcars

By Trains Staff | February 28, 2024

Incident occurred Jan. 31 in Decatur, Ala.

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Diagram of accident in rail yard
A diagram shows the scene of a fatal accident involving a Norfolk Southern engineer on Jan. 31, 2024, in Decatur, Ala. National Transportation Safety Board

WASHINGTON — The Norfolk Southern engineer killed in a Jan. 31 incident in Decatur, Ala., suffered fatal injuries when his locomotive was struck by a group of 35 railcars rolling on an adjacent track, the National Transportation Safety Board said in a preliminary accident report released today (Wednesday, Feb. 28).

The incident occurred about 4:15 p.m., when the group of cars from train A80, rolling on track 7 of the yard in Decatur, struck the locomotive of train A08, working on the yard lead of Decatur Yard. The cars raked along the engineer’s side of the locomotive, severely damaging the cab; train A08’s brakeman found the engineer about 65 feet from the point of impact. He was transported to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Train A80 had picked up a block of cars from track 7, leaving 35 cars behind. Prior to the accident, train A08 was shoving 18 cars from the yard lead onto track 10. Immediately before the collision, train A08’s brakeman saw the block of cars rolling west toward the yard lead and radioed a warning to the engineer; the engineer continued the shoving move in an effort to avoid the approaching cars, but was unable to clear the lead track. The loose cars rolled about 900 feet and struck the locomotive about 30 seconds after the brakeman’s warning.

Subsequent to the accident, Norfolk Southern issued a “Serious Incident Notice” advising employees to conduct job briefings to evaluate hazards, review hand brake requirements for unattended on-track equipment, and follow safety instructions during switching, and the Federal Railroad Administration issued a safety bulletin on securing rolling equipment [see “FRA issues safety bulletins …,” Trains News Wire, Feb. 13, 2024]. The ongoing NTSB investigation will focus on securing unattended equipment at Decature Yard and NS safety training for switching operations.

A preliminary report determines basic facts of an incident; probable cause and any safety recommendations are included in the final report.

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