Track inspection found problems before Conn. crash

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — A track inspection found problems two days before a train derailed in Connecticut and injured more than 70 people, the National Transportation Safety Board said Wednesday.

The May 15 inspection found a rail joint with inadequate supporting ballast and indications of vertical movement of the track near the point of derailment, according to the NTSB. The agency, which has been investigating the crash, said rail sections were shipped to a lab for further examination.

Marjorie Anders, a spokeswoman for Metro-North Railroad, said the ballast is loose stone and the railroad constantly makes sure it’s packed tightly so the track doesn’t go up and down slightly when a train passes. She said the inspection noted the issue but it wasn’t deemed an immediate problem, and the stone wasn’t added and packed down before the derailment.

“If they think it has reached a critical point they will not hesitate to order slow speed and immediate repair,” Anders said.

The NTSB has previously said a joint bar, used to hold two sections of rail together, had been cracked and repaired. The railroad says it was replaced.

That joint bar is the same one where the inspector noted the lack of stone, Anders said. Metro-North is conducting an inspection and inventory of all joint bars on its main tracks, the NTSB said.

The eastbound train from New York City was traveling at about 70 mph when it derailed during evening rush hour in Bridgeport on May 17. After it stopped, it was struck about 20 seconds later by the westbound train, which had slowed from 70 miles per hour to 23 miles per hour before hitting the train, NTSB said.

The crash injured 73 passengers, two engineers and a conductor. Damage was estimated by Metro-North at $18 million, the NTSB said.

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