A representative for the National Transportation Safety Board said Tuesday that a large agricultural truck had “impacted” the rail tracks at the point where a passenger train derailed, injuring more than 30 people early Monday near Cimarron.
Although investigators would not draw final conclusions, Earl Weener, a member of the safety board, said Tuesday: “Within 25 feet of that impact point, the train derailed. Those are the facts.”
The investigators found that the tracks had shifted 12 to 14 inches to the south after looking at video taken from a camera on the front of the train.
The track had last been inspected on Thursday.
“Based on the information we have at this time, the rail ties had shifted in a way that is consistent with an impact of an agriculture truck,” Weener said.
The train derailment did not occur near a graded rail crossing, where a road is designed to carry vehicles over the tracks.
By analyzing a tire mark, investigators were able to determine that the truck that ran across the track was a Kenworth two-axle feed truck and is owned by Cimarron Crossing Feeders LLC, Weener said.
The owner of the company, a cattle feed yard near Cimarron, has cooperated with investigators, and the truck had had its brakes inspected as recently as January, Weener said. He did not offer any details about how the impact occurred.
A sign for an entrance to a feedlot with the company’s name on it is within view of where the train derailment occurred. A receptionist who answered the phone at Cimarron Crossing late Tuesday said the company did not want to discuss the train accident.
The company is listed as a member of the Kansas Livestock Association on its website, with a capacity of 20,000 cattle.
According to Weener, no report of the truck crossing the tracks had been made to local authorities or to the operators of the railroad tracks.
“Our rule is a safety investigation,” Weener said. “We are just looking for what happened and why it happened and preventing it from happening again. We’re not involved in enforcement.”
Investigators also determined the train was traveling at 60 mph at the time of the accident, which is the speed limit for a passenger train in that area, according to Weener.
The conductor put on the emergency brakes near the point of derailment, according to Weener, but it took 18 seconds for the Amtrak train to come to a complete stop. The train traveled 919 feet in that 18 seconds.
Weener encourages any witnesses who might have seen the feed truck drive over the railroad tracks to e-mail the NTSB at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A full determination about the likely cause of the accident won’t be made for about a year, Weener said, at which point there could be recommendations for how to prevent this in the future. Some investigators will remain on the scene for the rest of the week.
The tracks had been restored by Tuesday afternoon, Weener said, and passenger and freight service was expected to restart Tuesday afternoon.