Carrizozo, New Mexico
National Transportation Safety Board
Washington, DC 20594
February 27, 2004
UPDATE ON NTSB INVESTIGATION OF FEBRUARY 21 FREIGHT TRAIN COLLISION IN NEW MEXICO
The National Transportation Safety Board launched a Go Team to investigate the collision of two Union Pacific freight trains in Carrizozo, New Mexico at 7:54 a.m., MST, February 21, 2004.
Eastbound freight train AMLKS-18, consisting of two locomotives and 78 empty auto carriers, struck westbound train GLPNEP-16, consisting of four locomotives and 93 cars loaded with grain, about 25 cars behind the
westbound train's locomotives at an interlocking between the main track and
The two crewmembers on the eastbound train were killed in the accident; the two crewmembers on the westbound train were not injured. Both engines and 9 cars of the eastbound train derailed, while 11 cars of the
westbound train derailed. A brief fuel fire ensued.
The westbound train had a signal to diverge and was heading into the siding in accordance with the operating rules in place. The eastbound train was to stop at the stop signal to permit the westbound train to clear the track before proceeding. Before the stop signal the eastbound train encountered
two signals that informed the crew that they should reduce the speed of their train. The second of these required the crew to reduce the speed of their train to 30 mph and be prepared to stop at the next signal, which was
the stop signal.
The event recorder from that train recorded a speed at impact of 36 mph, with no input from the crew for several miles before the
collision, including no braking action before impact.
The event recorder from the westbound train shows a speed at impact of 23 mph, and numerous short whistle blasts just before the collision.
The crew of the eastbound train went on duty in El Paso at 12:20 that morning. The crew of the westbound train went on duty in Vaughn, New Mexico at 4:00 a.m.
Toxicological tests were conducted under federal rules on the fatally injured crewmembers from the eastbound train. In addition, the Safety Board has obtained its own samples for toxicological tests by a contracted federal laboratory. Results of both sets of tests are pending.
The eastbound train weighed 4,211 tons and was 7,564 feet long. The westbound train weighed 12,269 tons and was 5,867 feet long.
Parties to the investigation are the Union Pacific Railroad, the Federal Railroad Administration, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and the United Transportation Union.
Safety Board investigators are expected to leave the accident scene by the end of this week. NTSB investigations take 12 to 18 months to completion, but safety recommendations may be issued at any time.
NTSB Media Contact: Ted Lopatkiewicz, (202) 314-6100
NTSB ADVISORY - March 10, 2004 Update
SECOND UPDATE ON NTSB INVESTIGATION INTO NEW MEXICO FREIGHT TRAIN COLLISION
The National Transportation Safety Board launched a Go Team to investigate the collision of two
Union Pacific freight trains in Carrizozo, New Mexico, at 7:54 a.m. MST, February 21, 2004. The two
crewmembers of the eastbound train died in the collision; the two crewmembers aboard the westbound
train were not injured. This is an update of the Board's investigation.
During the course of the investigation, NTSB investigators were informed that a green leafy
substance and smoking paraphernalia were found on the remains of the eastbound train's engineer.
These were taken to the State of New Mexico, Department of Public Safety's Crime Lab in Las Cruces,
New Mexico. The green leafy substance and burnt vegetation from the smoking paraphernalia tested
positive for marijuana.
The accident met the threshold for mandatory post accident toxicological testing of the train crews
involved, including the fatally injured crewmembers, under the regulations of the Federal Railroad
Administration. The NTSB has been informed of the results. Toxicological results from the westbound
grain train crew and the eastbound train deceased conductor were negative for all drugs tested.
Toxicological results from the deceased engineer from the eastbound train were positive for
marijuana. The NTSB is arranging for further toxicological testing on additional samples at a
The crew of the eastbound train had passed three wayside signals that informed the crew of the need
to reduce speed and to be prepared to stop their train before passing the last signal, which was
just before the point of the collision. The signal testing by the NTSB signal group, which included
representatives from the Federal Railroad Administration and the State of New Mexico railroad
inspectors, determined that the signal system had displayed the correct signal aspects for the train
to reduce speed and stop before the collision.
Event recorder data indicated that the throttle of the eastbound train was in a high power setting
and that the speed of the train was not reduced in a manner that would comply with signal
indications. Sight distance testing at the location of the signals in advance of the location of the
accident and at the location of the stop signal at the point of the collision revealed no sight
obstruction to the signals. The event recorders from both locomotives of the striking (eastbound)
train recorded a speed of 36 mph at impact, with no input from the crew for several miles before the
collision, including no braking action before impact.
The crew of the eastbound train was on duty for 7 hours and 34 minutes before the accident.
Investigators reviewed the amount of off-duty time that was available for the crews to have rest
before starting on the trip in which the accident occurred and found that the engineer had been off
duty for 26 hours and 55 minutes. The conductor of the eastbound train had been off duty for 12
hours and 50 minutes. Federal law permits crewmembers to work a maximum of 12 consecutive hours.
The NTSB's investigation continues.
Final NTSB Report Made Oct. 2006 On This Collision Here
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