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NTSB 'Go Team' to investigate deadly NYC train derailment

Viewed from Manhattan, Emergency rescue personnel work the scene of a Metro-North passenger train derailment in the Bronx borough of New York, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2013. The train derailed on a curved section of track on Sunday morning, coming to rest just inches from the water and causing multiple fatalities and dozens of injuries, authorities said. Metropolitan Transportation Authority police say the train derailed near the Spuyten Duyvil station. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

In the aftermath of a Metro-North train derailment in New York City, the National Transportation Safety Board is springing into action to determine the cause of the tragic accident that killed at least four people.

The NTSB says it has dispatched to the Bronx a “Go Team,” described on its website as a group of specialists – from three, to more than a dozen -- “assigned on a rotational basis to respond as quickly as possible to the scene of the accident.”

“Go Teams travel by commercial airliner or government aircraft depending on circumstances and availability,” the NTSB writes. “Such teams have been winging to catastrophic airline crash sites for more than 35 years. They also routinely handle investigations of certain rail, highway, marine and pipeline accidents.”

Much will depend on information yielded by the commuter train’s black box event recorder, which a Metro-North spokeswoman said would be recovered from the wreck and then turned over to the NTSB.

The NTSB says its Go Team for the Metro-North accident is headed by Mike Flanigon, a rail safety investigator and veteran of numerous such incidents around the country, and notably a collision earlier this year between two freight trains near Red Oak, Iowa, resulting in two deaths and $8 million in damage. An NTSB board member will also accompany the team.

The NTSB says on its website that it is charged with investigating civil aviation accidents nationwide, as well as major accidents in other transportation means involving rail and highway travel.

The agency typically tries to figure out the reason for an incident and then subsequently releases recommendations aimed at preventing similar such events in the future.

Meanwhile, the White House issued a statement saying President Obama had been briefed on the accident that occurred at 7:20 a.m. and would remain in communication with New York officials concerning developments throughout the day.  In the statement, the president says his thoughts and prayers are with the friends and families of the victims.