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Tue May 28, 2019, 04:41 PM

Commentary: Many to be held accountable for Amtrak tragedy

Call it a crash, or call it a catastrophe. But don’t call the December 2017 Amtrak train derailment near DuPont, which killed three people and injured dozens more, an accident.

An accident is something unforeseen, an unplanned event or circumstance. But the 53 findings from the National Transportation Safety Board investigation presented last week clearly show that the inaugural Amtrak Cascades run on the Point Defiance Bypass route didn’t meet that definition.

It was doomed before it left Tacoma Dome station.

Tuesday’s hearing revealed that major safety precautions were put off or ignored at the public’s peril. The NTSB assigned a large portion of responsibility to Sound Transit, which owns the $181 million stretch of track.

According to NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt: “The probable cause of Amtrak 501 derailment was the Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority’s (Sound Transit) failure to provide an effective mitigation for the hazardous curve.”

But the blame spreads widely. The Washington state Department of Transportation, Amtrak and the Federal Railroad Administration were implicated, as well.

“There were known hazards,” Sumwalt said, adding that if all these agencies were “more engaged and assertive during the preparation of the inaugural service, it would have been more likely that safety hazards would have been better identified.”

If you hear echoes from the recent investigations of two Boeing 737 Max jet crashes, you’re not alone. Evidence indicates the rail and airline disasters all resulted from systemic failures, which point to alarming regulatory gaps in our transportation network.



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