Thursday, May 17, 2001

Engineer's error let train go


He set the throttle instead of a brake

By John Seewer
The Associated Press

        WALBRIDGE, Ohio — The runaway train that barreled past back yards and farms with hazardous cargo began its 66-mile journey when an engineer mistakenly hit the throttle instead of a brake, CSX Transportation investigators said Wednesday.

        The engineer had hopped off the train to manually switch tracks and saw the 47-car train pulling away. He chased it and desperately tried to hang on to a railing that was slick from rain. He couldn't pull himself aboard and fell to the ground after being dragged about 80 feet.

        “After that, the train was out of the gate and onto the main line,” said Fred Agler, transportation director for the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.

        For two hours, the train without anyone at the controls sailed at speeds nearing 50 mph.

        The engineer, who has worked for the railroad for 35 years with a clean record, had set two of three brakes on the train. He thought he had set the third brake but accidentally hit the throttle instead.

        “He acknowledged that he made a serious error in judgment, and he will be held accountable,” said Alan F. Crown, CSX's executive vice president-transportation.

        Jon Hosfeld, a 31-year CSX employee, and two other workers raced through small towns on a desperate chase to catch the locomotive.

        Eventually, other CSX workers caught up to the train with another locomotive and attached it to the last car, applying the brakes and slowing the runaway train down to 10 to 15 mph.

        That allowed Mr. Hosfeld, 52, to grab a railing, pull himself aboard and stop the train outside Kenton, about 55 miles northwest of Columbus.

       



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