Authorities Investigating Whether Amtrak Engineer Was Distracted

DUPONT, Wash. (CBS News) — Investigators are looking into whether the Amtrak engineer whose speeding train plunged off an overpass, killing at least three people, was distracted by the presence of an employee-in-training in the locomotive, a federal official said Tuesday. The official, who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity, said investigators want to know whether the engineer lost “situational awareness” because of the second person in the cab.

The train was going 80 mph in a 30 mph zone Monday morning when it ran off the rails along a curve, sending some of its cars plunging onto an interstate highway below, National Transportation Safety Member Bella Dinh-Zarr said late Monday, citing data from the locomotive’s event recorder.

Dinh-Zarr said it is not yet known what caused the train to run off the rails and is too early to say why it was going so fast. She said investigators will talk to the engineer and other crew members. In previous wrecks, investigators looked at whether the engineer was distracted or incapacitated.

The engineer, whose name was not released, was bleeding from the head after the wreck, and both eyes were swollen shut, according to radio conversations.

Radio transmissions in which a crew member discussed injuries to the engineer mentioned a second person in the front of the train, who was also hurt.

The train, with 85 passengers and crew members, was making the inaugural run along a fast new bypass route that was created by refurbishing freight tracks alongside Interstate 5. The 15-mile, $180.7 million project was aimed at speeding up service by bypassing a route with a number of curves, single-track tunnels and freight traffic.

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