CHICAGO – A commuter train was going almost 60 mph above the speed limit just before it derailed, killing two people and injuring dozens, the acting chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board (search) said Sunday.
Mark Rosenker said the Metra train (search) was traveling at 69 mph and should not have been going faster than 10 mph when it switched tracks at a crossover just before jumping the tracks Saturday. three electronic data recorders, popularly known as "black boxes," Rosenker said.
Part of the investigation included an interview Sunday with the train's engineer, Rosenker. The 41-year-old man had been on the job for 45 days after completing Metra's six-month training program, which included at least some training along the route where the derailment occurred. He also had worked for more than five years as a CSX Corp. freight train engineer.
Investigators have determined that nothing was abnormal with the tracks, which had just been inspected on Friday, Rosenker said.
The double-decked commuter train was headed into Chicago from Joliet (search) on Saturday morning with 185 passengers and four crew members when its locomotive and five rail cars jumped the tracks about 5 miles south of downtown.
The train and the track had just been inspected Friday, said Judy Pardonnet, a spokeswoman for Metra, the commuter rail system that services the Chicago area.
The train engineer, three crew members and dispatchers were all tested for drugs and alcohol, which is standard procedure, Pardonnet said. The engineer had been on the job for 45 days after completing Metra's six-month training program, which included at least some training along the route where the derailment occurred. He also worked for more than five years as a CSX Corp. freight train engineer.
A similar derailment occurred on the same stretch of track in 2003, injuring about 45 people. A preliminary NTSB report found that the train was going almost 70 mph at the location where it was supposed to switch from one track to the other.
Pardonnet said the two derailments may have been just a coincidence. "I don't think it's anything specific to this area, but it's still under investigation," she said.
Jane Cuthbert, 22, of Bourbonnais, died on the train, Pardonnet said. A 30-year-old woman died at a hospital.
They were the first people killed in a Metra derailment since it took over commuter rail services in the region in 1984.
The injured passengers were taken to 15 hospitals and 15 of them remained hospitalized Sunday, Pardonnet said. She did not have information on their conditions.
Train service on the Rock Island District Line resumed about four hours after the derailment, and the accident should not affect Monday's commute, Pardonnet said.