Wednesday, February 21, 2001

Train warned before wreck


It slammed into back of another

By Sheila McLaughlin and Tom O'Neill
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FRANKLIN TWP. — Moments before the weekend train crash that killed a Cincinnati engineer, his train received — and acknowledged — a warning to slow down from another locomotive.

        Instead, the train apparently sped up just before it slammed into the back of another train, which was stopped because its warning signal malfunctioned, George Cochran. lead investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board, said Tuesday.

        That revelation is based on an account provided by crew members of a passing train who noticed that the warning signal was out on the stopped train and radioed others.

[photo] A CSX locomotive lies on its side Saturday after hitting the rear of another train in Franklin Township. The crash killed one engineer and seriously injured two others.
(Tony Jones photo)
| ZOOM |
        The crash at 2 a.m. Saturday killed 35-year-old David Wund, a Green Township resident who worked as a pilot engineer for CSX Transportation since 1997, and seriously injured engineers Terry Stover, 45, of Columbus and Harry Everingham, 46, of Dublin, Ohio. Officials at CSX, a rail company based in Jacksonville, Fla., said Mr. Wund was training the other two men on the route.

        The moving train was under a “restricted proceed” signal, “but as they proceeded, they increased their speed. The events recordings will show the exact speed,” Mr. Cochran said.

        “You have to be prepared to stop” when you get such a signal, he said.

        It still is unclear who was at the controls because the surviving engineers are in serious or critical condition and cannot be interviewed by federal investigators.

        Typically, the pilot engineer would be operating the locomotive during a training session, though it is not required, Mr. Cochran said.

        That could be an issue as investigators learned Tuesday that Mr. Wund had a drunken-driving conviction in Hamilton County in 1998 and lost his driver's license for six months.

        “The information about his past history is all well and good and may be an indication, which we are definitely looking at,” said Lamar Allen, alcohol and drug program manager with the Federal Railroad Administration. “But the actual fact is whether the use of alcohol or drugs was involved (in the crash).

        He said blood specimens from the three men are being screened for drugs and alcohol at a Utah lab and should be completed in about two weeks.

        In addition, railroad administra tion officials, who are working in conjunction with the NTSB investigation, also plan to check personnel files of the engineers. Included in that probe is whether CSX followed federal requirements in certifying the three men to operate trains and whether it took appropriate actions involving Mr. Wund's conviction, federal officials said.

        Unlike airplane pilots, who are licensed by the federal government, train engineers are certified through their companies. However, records are monitored for compliance in periodic audits by the railroad administration.

        The rail companies must follow federal guidelines and are required to check an employee's state and national driving records before recertification every three years, said John Conklin,manager of the railroad administration' locomotive engineer certification program.

        Federal rules require companies only to send employees with recent alcohol or drug convictions to a program to be assessed for treatment. The rule also applies to employees who lose their driver licenses because of a drug or alcohol-related incident, Mr. Conklin said.

        A year ago, the federal agency began requiring train companies to notify it of an employee's substance abuse or related convictions within 48 hours.

        CSX spokesman Gary Wollenhaupt said the company did not know about Mr. Wund's drunken-driving conviction until December, when he applied for recertification.

        Mr. Wund was not obligated to tell CSX about the conviction prior to the license renewal because the federal government did not require it when he was convicted in 1998.

        In December, CSX officials sent Mr. Wund to a counselor in the employee assistance program for assessment, and it was determined he was fit for recertification, Mr. Wollenhaupt said.
       



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