NTSB chair says trains need more image and audio recorders after Ohio derailment

·2 min read
Jacquelyn Martin

WASHINGTON — The head of the National Transportation Safety Board said Wednesday that freight trains should be required to have inward- and outward-facing image and audio recorders in the wake of the East Palestine, Ohio, train derailment.

NTSB Chairwoman Jennifer Homendy testified before the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee that the Norfolk Southern train involved in the Feb. 3 derailment had only an inward-facing camera and that the data was overwritten.

"Since the locomotive was put immediately back into service following the accident, the data was overwritten," she said. "That means the recorder only provided about 15 minutes of data before the derailment and five minutes after."

Major derailments of commuter trains near Los Angeles and Philadelphia in the last 20 years led to a law that required Amtrak and commuter railroads to have "crash- and fire-hardened inward- and outward-facing image recorders for locomotives that have a minimum of a 12-hour continuous recording capability," Homendy said.

"Now is the time to expand that requirement to audio and include the Class I freight railroads in that mandate," she added.

Homendy said that like voice recorders in airplane cockpits, audio and video recorders in train locomotive cabs "are essential for helping investigators determine the cause of an accident" and to develop recommendations to prevent future derailments.

She also said the agency is committed to conducting an independent, thorough investigation into the East Palestine derailment, which led to a spill of toxic chemicals.

The NTSB's report summarizing its preliminary investigation said the derailment could be traced to an overheated wheel bearing that was 253 degrees hotter than the air temperature.

The agency said officials will continue to focus on the wheelset and bearing, the tank car design, derailment damage and a review of the accident response, including the venting and burning of the chemicals, as well as Norfolk Southern’s inspection practices.

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com