WASHINGTON (AP) — Two conductors who got out of their freight train to follow up on an alert that there was a problem with one or more of its wheels were struck and killed by a passenger train near Washington’s Union Station.
The CSX employees, one in training, were responding Tuesday night after one of the detectors that are placed along the tracks about every 25 miles (40 kilometers) identified an abnormality in the wheels, National Transportation Safety Board member Earl Weener said Wednesday at a news conference.
“The train came to a stop for the personnel; for the crew members to take a look to try and identify what the problem was before continuing. It was at that operation that the accident occurred,” Weener said.
He could not say if the operator of the Amtrak train saw the CSX employees before hitting them but said that’s being investigated. He said there were “few definitive facts at this early stage.”
The freight train, which was traveling from Baltimore to Chicago, was about 9,000 to 9,500 feet (2,740 to 2,900 meters) long, he said.
The train consisted of two locomotives, 49 loaded rail cars and nine empty cars, CSX said. The train was carrying paper products, machine parts, clothing and grain.
The CSX employees were struck by an Amtrak train traveling from Boston and New York as it approached Washington’s Union Station. Amtrak says none of the train’s 121 passengers or crew was injured in the accident.
CSX said in a statement that the names of the employees were being withheld for their families’ privacy.
Amtrak service was suspended between Washington and Philadelphia after the two employees were struck, but service resumed Wednesday morning, with delays. Riders traveling on two commuter train lines could expect major delays Wednesday and possible train cancellations, transit officials in Maryland said.
“It really messed up the schedules down the Northeast Corridor,” passenger Gary Alvino said.
“I’m ready to go home now,” one woman said.
Others at Baltimore-Penn canceled their plans altogether.
“At this point I’m really not feeling good about traveling,” another woman said.
The NTSB has said the Amtrak train was in the process of slowing down as it approached Union Station but that will be looked into in more detail along with video as the investigation continues.
The area where the employees were struck has two tracks that belong to CSX and two that belong to Amtrak, Weener said. Investigators will be looking at communication between CSX and Amtrak also.
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