As the Chicago Tribune recently reported, an Amtrak train that derailed this past Sunday in southwest Michigan, injuring nine passengers in the process, came within a mere 21 feet from colliding with a parked freight hopper car in the process.
In a chilling near-miss story, the train (which departed from Chicago en route to suburban Detroit) was traveling approximately 60 miles per hour as it passed through Niles, Michigan — just north of the Indiana Border near Lake Michigan — when a reversed track switch sent the train off the normal rail line and into a rail yard where it nearly missed the parked hopper car.
In what can only be described as a recipe for disaster, the article reports that the train was traveling along a high speed rail when the derailment occurred — and the train engineer actually had a green light to proceed.
In light of these facts, it is rather miraculous that so few individuals were injured, but the ensuing NTSB investigation seems as though it is likely to be an eventful one. As the article reports: “[s]ources said part of the investigation will focus on whether safety mechanisms on board the train were activated and operating correctly at the time of the accident. The Amtrak locomotive was a so-called “smart train,’’ equipped with a safety system called Incremental Train Control System that is designed to detect problems involving track switches, signals and railroad crossing warning devices.”
While there appear to be a number of ways that this event could have ended tragically, it is fortunate that, despite the myriad of things that appear to have gone wrong, only nine of the 174 passengers were injured.
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