Data recovered from the wreckage of the New Jersey Transit commuter train crash last week shows that the train sped up to twice the 10 mph speed limit and the engineer hit the emergency brake less than a second before crashing into the Hoboken terminal, said federal investigators.
The crash killed one person on the platform and injured more than 100 others.
That information came from the forward-facing video camera and event data recorder which were examined by investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board.
The NTSB says the train was traveling at about 8 mph as the throttle was in the idle position. About 38 seconds before the crash, the throttle increased to #4 position as the train gained a maximum speed of 21 mph. The throttle went back to idle just before the collision with a bumping post.
The NTSB press release does not say why the train sped up. “The NTSB has not determined probable cause and cautions against drawing conclusions from these facts alone, ” the statement read.
The Associated Press cited an NJ Transit engineer who spoke on the condition of anonymity:
“The engineer said the throttles have eight slots, putting the fourth spot at about half power. The engineer said the throttle should be set to idle, or the first and slowest speed spot, when entering Hoboken Terminal. The tracks into the station run slightly downhill, so there would be no need to push the throttle any higher, the engineer said.”
That same engineer told the AP that there is an alarm system to alert train operators when a locomotive exceeds 20 mph, but a spokesman for the NTSB said he didn’t know whether the alarm went off.
The engineer of the crashed train has told investigators that he has no memory of the incident.
Federal investigators are scheduled to meet next week in Washington D.C. Their final report in accidents such as this one can take a year or more to complete.