News & Reviews News Wire Probe of fatal BNSF coal train wreck to focus on track inspection and maintenance, NTSB says

Probe of fatal BNSF coal train wreck to focus on track inspection and maintenance, NTSB says

By Bill Stephens | November 2, 2023

The Oct. 15 derailment in Colorado prompted a bridge to collapse onto Interstate 25, killing a truck driver

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As part of its preliminary report, the National Transportation Safety Board released this BNSF Railway photo that diagrams the Oct. 15 coal train derailment near Pueblo, Colo.

WASHINGTON — The National Transportation Safety Board’s probe into the Oct. 15 derailment of a BNSF Railway coal train near Pueblo, Colo., will focus on the railroad’s track maintenance and inspection procedures, the agency said today in its preliminary report on the fatal wreck.

Some of the 30 loaded coal gondolas that derailed near a passing siding switch struck the railroad bridge over Interstate 25 at Pueblo West. A portion of the bridge collapsed onto the highway, and six gondolas dropped to the interstate, killing the driver of a northbound truck.

While on scene, the NTSB investigators said they believed the wreck likely was caused by a broken rail.

Train CNAMCRD0-31D departed Denver at 9:41 a.m. on the day of the derailment, bound for La Junta, Colo., according to the NTSB’s preliminary report. The train consisted of two locomotives at the head end, three distributed power units, and 124 cars loaded with coal. The conductor and engineer were not injured in the 3:24 p.m. derailment at Milepost 109.654 of the Pikes Peak Subdivision.

At the site of the wreck, the Pikes Peak Sub is single-track with an adjacent passing siding that begins just east of the bridge. The southbound train was moving at 32 mph, well below the maximum authorized speed of 45 mph.

“While on scene, National Transportation Safety Board investigators completed interviews; reviewed data from locomotive event recorders, forward-facing image recorders, and radio logs; inspected locomotives and railcars; tested ​​and downloaded data from positive train control and signal systems; examined track near the derailment site; reviewed BNSF track maintenance and welding procedures; and recovered a section of rail for analysis at the NTSB Materials Laboratory,” the preliminary report said.

Parties to the ongoing investigation include BNSF, the Federal Railroad Administration, the Brotherhood of Railway Carmen division of the Transportation Communications Union/IAM; the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen; the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes; and ​the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers.

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