DUPONT (Washington) • US safety inspectors probing the deadly wreck of a passenger train that careened off a bridge onto a highway in Washington state are eager to question the engineer and a conductor-in-training who were in the cab of the locomotive, officials said.
National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) officials hope interviews with all crew members would shed light on why Train 501 on Amtrak's Cascades line was going more than twice the speed limit around a curved stretch of track when it derailed on Monday.
The accident occurred during the train's inaugural run on a new, slightly quicker route between Olympia and Tacoma, with 86 people aboard, 80 of them passengers, Amtrak said.
NTSB officials said they planned to interview all the crew members in the next two days, once they sufficiently recover from injuries suffered in the wreck, including the conductor-in-training who was with the engineer at the time.
Safety board member Bella Dinh-Zarr told reporters that NTSB investigators would seek to determine, among other factors routinely examined, whether the engineer was distracted while driving the ill-fated train.
"Distraction is one of our most-wanted-list priorities at the NTSB," she said.
She also said investigators had determined that the train's emergency brakes were automatically activated while the derailment was occurring, rather than engaged manually by the engineer.
None of the crew has been identified. All were hospitalised, Dr Dinh-Zarr said.