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NTSB interviews engineer, collects video in probe of train crash

A National Transportation Safety Board photo from Sept.

A National Transportation Safety Board photo from Sept. 30, 2016, shows the event recorder retrieved from the locomotive involved in the fatal Sept. 29, 2016 train crash in Hoboken, New Jersey. One person was killed and more than 100 were injured when a fast moving NJ Transit train ran through a barrier, became airborne and crashed into the train station. Credit: AP

Federal investigators interviewed the engineer and collected video Saturday in the search for the cause of the New Jersey commuter train crash in Hoboken that left one woman dead and more than 100 injured.

The National Transportation Safety Board said it would not release any information from its interview with the engineer until it had spoken with all members of the train crew about Thursday’s crash.

Video from other trains at Hoboken Terminal will be viewed to see what those cameras captured during the crash, the NTSB said in a news release Saturday. Investigators still could not gain access to the event recorder in the train’s cab, where the engineer sat, officials said.

Investigators ruled out signal abnormalities on the tracks leading to Hoboken Terminal, the NTSB said. The agency said it could not conduct a full signal study because the train remained in the terminal.

Inspectors also completed a walking tour of the track and found nothing that would have affected the train’s performance, the NTSB said.

On Saturday, the NTSB supervised the Kentucky manufacturer of the trailing locomotive’s event recorder in downloading data from it, the release said. The device was retrieved Friday and shipped to Kentucky after NTSB members could not download its data at the scene.

The two boxes should have information about the train’s speed, distance traveled, throttle input, brake application and brake performance, NTSB Vice Chairwoman T. Bella Dinh-Zarr said Friday.

Safety concerns over whether asbestos was present in the mangled train terminal hampered the progress of the physical investigation, the NTSB said. Contractors and other experts have been called in to assess its structural stability. The environmental aspect also is being looked into, the NTSB has said.

“Because of the asbestos, because of the unsettled structures that I’m unsure about, I’m not allowing anybody to go in there,” lead NTSB investigator James Southworth told reporters Friday. The evidence in the train is “nonperishable,” he said.

About 8:45 a.m. Thursday, the NJ Transit train carrying 250 people failed to slow as it approached Hoboken Terminal, the final stop in its run, crashing through a protective barrier and barreling through a station concourse.

The force of the impact toppled support beams, mangled station structures and sent a canopy roof crashing down. Fabiola Bittar de Kroon, 34, of Hoboken, the mother of a 1-year-old girl, was killed in the collapse.

Officials said 114 others were injured, including the train’s engineer, Thomas Gallagher, 48, of Morris Plains, New Jersey, a 29-year employee who has since been released from the hospital.

NTSB officials said they had begun going through relevant records, including the train’s maintenance history, and Gallagher’s training, certification and personnel record. Investigators also have taken possession of his personal electronic devices. Blood and urine samples taken from the engineer after the crash await lab results.

With Alfonso Castillo

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