Monday, June 27, 2011

Truck Firm in Amtrak Crash Had Safety Violations

Chicago Sun-Times: A Nevada trucking company under scrutiny for a fiery crash with an Amtrak train that left at least six dead has been cited repeatedly by state authorities for crashes, unsafe driving and operating a truck with tires so bald the vehicle had to be taken off the road.

A driver working for John Davis Trucking Co. of Battle Mountain smashed through crossing gates and into two double-decker cars of an Amtrak train Friday, killing the driver and five people on the train.

Federal records reviews by the Associated Press on Sunday show the Nevada Department of Public Safety cited the company for two crashes in the last two years, including one in February 2010 that injured a person in Washoe County.

In a January inspection, authorities found tires on one company tractor-trailer so bald they deemed the rig an imminent hazard to public safety.

Meanwhile, Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Chuck Allen said Sunday that officials for the Churchill County Coroner Office continued to sift through the rubble of two rail cars gutted by the fire that burned extremely hot. Investigators also continued on Sunday to look over the scene for any clues as to why the truck driver plowed through the railroad crossing on Friday. It’s expected to take up to a year to pinpoint the cause of the crash.

“Just from handling or being on the scene of so many accidents, there are so many alternatives to consider,” Allen said.

“Not necessarily just drugs or alcohol, but fatigue, driver inattention. Did he have a CB [citizen band radio]? Was he talking to his buddies behind him? If so, was he looking in the side view mirror and not looking at the road ahead?” he said. “I don’t think we’ll ever know for sure.”

National Transportation Safety Board member Earl Weener said Sunday that the flashing lights at the crossing guard, which are set to blink for 25 seconds before a train approaches, would have been visible from a half-mile away if a motorist was driving at the highway’s 70 mph speed limit.

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