By Mike Hellgren

ROSEDALE, Md. (WJZ)— Federal investigators find a distracted driver and lax safety regulations led to a train derailment and massive explosion in Baltimore County last year—and they say not enough has been done to stop it from happening again.

Mike Hellgren breaks down the findings of the NTSB investigation.

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The agency says the truck driver’s company had a pattern of safety problems that other federal regulations ignored but investigators found the truck driver’s cell phone was the primary distraction that led to him crossing the tracks in front of a train carrying explosive chemicals.

Eighteen seconds before the crash, National Transportation Safety Board investigators say truck driver John Alban Jr. took a phone call—and even though it was on a hands-free device, they say it distracted him so much, he failed to hear the warning horn, causing him to cross the tracks, triggering a collision and explosion felt for miles.

“The circumstances of the Rosedale grade-crossing demonstrate that distractions from hands-free devices can lead to catastrophic results,” said acting NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart.

The NTSB also blasted the federal agency charged with regulating commercial trucking for allowing Alban to continue to operate, despite what the chairman called a pattern of safety problems.

“Unsafe companies that cannot or will not correct safety issues do not belong on our roads and highways,” Hart said.

While doing this story, a WJZ camera captured a truck failing to stop at the same crossing—which has never had gates or lights.

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There have been other accidents here and, with dozens of homes nearby, the head of the community association worries about lax oversight.

“Red flags were up all over the place. Somebody should have stopped that immediately,” said Russ Mirabile, Rosedale Community Association.

“Neither CSX, the private landowner, nor the state of Maryland accepted responsibility for clearing vegetation or posting signage at the crossing,” Hart said.

A WJZ investigation found 178 accidents in Maryland in the past decade at similar crossings—caused, in most cases, by distracted drivers.

“It’s suicidal. A freight train even traveling at a modest speed will not be able to stop in sight distance,” said Dr. Allan Zarembski, director of the Railroad Engineering and Safety program at the University of Delaware.

The NTSB fears this could happen again unless changes are made—chief among them, stopping all commercial truck drivers from taking any phone calls while on the road.

CSX sued the truck driver and the case was recently settled for an undisclosed amount. Property owners claimed more than $10 million in damages from the crash.

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