(CN) – The engineer at the helm of a deadly Amtrak train derailment in Washington state in December didn’t recognize the curve he was approaching until seconds before the wreck, according to new details released by the National Transportation Safety Board.
The 55-year-old engineer told investigators he had planned to brake well before the 30-mph curve where the train sailed off its tracks but didn’t see signs warning of the approach. Instead, the train hit the curve at 79 miles per hour, the safety board said Thursday in a summary of its interview with the engineer and a second conductor-in-training.
The doomed trip was the engineer’s second time operating the Coast Starlight run from Tacoma to Portland, Oregon. He had twice operated the train on the same run going north, and had completed 7 to 10 observational trips, investigators said.
Three people died and dozens were injured in the Dec. 18 crash of the inaugural run of a new, faster bypass route.
The engineer told investigators that he felt rested on the day of the crash, that did not feel distracted by the presence of a second conductor in the locomotive that day, and that he would not have driven the train that day if he had any reservations about his ability to do so.
The second man in the locomotive, training to qualify for the route, told investigators that he was studying paperwork just before the crash. He looked up when he heard the engineer mumble something. Then he felt the train go airborne.
Neither man has been identified by investigators.
The full investigation, which will include video of the wreck, data from the train’s recorder and other mechanical data in addition to interviews with crew members, could take up to two years.