National Transportation Safety Board investigators arrive at scene to determine cause of crash

two trains wreck in Texas

BNSF said Wednesday that the remains of two crew members have been recovered a day after two of the company’s trains collided in Panhandle, Texas, starting a fire. One other employee is in the hospital and another is presumed dead.

Photo: Sean Steffen/Amarillo Globe-News /Associated Press

June 29, 2016

By Imani Moise
Amarillo Globe-News /Associated Press

Two railroad employees were found dead and a third is still missing following a fiery train collision in Panhandle, Texas.

BNSF Railway Co. said Wednesday that the remains of two crew members have been recovered. Of the two other employees involved in the crash, one is in stable condition at a local hospital and another is presumed dead by local officials.

"The entire BNSF family is terribly saddened by this event and we extend our deepest sympathy and thoughts to the families and friends of the employees involved in this incident," said BNSF Chief Executive Carl Ice in a statement.

BNSF said the crew members’ families have been notified, but it isn’t releasing the names.

Two trains operated by BNSF were traveling toward each other on the same track and collided around 8:25 a.m. on Tuesday approximately 27 miles northeast of Amarillo, Texas, according to the railroad. The trains were carrying a combined 195 loads, and many of the containers were damaged.

Six investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board arrived in Panhandle around 2 p.m. Wednesday to determine the cause of the accident. Senior investigator Richard Hipskind said the team would examine the data reports, human performance and equipment among other factors as part of the investigation.

Digital video recorders were present on both trains and may be used in the investigation.

"Our mission is to understand not just what happened but why it happened and to make recommendations or changes to prevent it from happening again," Mr. Hipskind said in a press conference.

The investigation may last up to five days, Mr. Hipskind said, and the NTSB won’t publicly speculate about what caused the accident while they are on the scene. The search for the third crew member is ongoing but has been made difficult by strong winds and smoldering wreckage, he said.

Nearby residents were evacuated, a Panhandle city spokeswoman said. A diesel fire caused by the collision was contained at approximately 7 p.m. Tuesday, said Sgt. Dan Buesing of the Texas Highway Patrol, a part of the Texas Department of Public Safety. Late that day, authorities shifted the focus of their investigation on the four crew members from a search and rescue to a recovery mission.

Apart from the railway and the land immediately surrounding the collision, Sgt. Buesing said no other property was damaged.

The National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Railroad Administration are conducting independent investigations to determine the cause of the accident.

The railroad has said that a new safety technology known as positive train control was slated for installation later this year along the area of track where the crash occurred, something intended to prevent these types of accidents.

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