NTSB probe of deadly crash focuses on engineer, black box


HOBOKEN, N.J. (AP) — Here’s what is known about the investigation into a commuter train crash that killed one person and injured more than 100 others Thursday in Hoboken, New Jersey.

THE INVESTIGATION

The National Transportation Safety Board is gathering information about what caused the train to barrel through a station and crash into a barrier. The agency is seeking information from the train’s engineer, the black boxes that record train data and other crew members.

Authorities would not estimate how fast the train was going before it hit a bumper at the end of its track. But the speed limit into the station is 10 mph.

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THE ENGINEER

Authorities want to know why the commuter train with engineer Thomas Gallagher at the controls smashed through a steel-and-concrete bumper and hurtled into the station’s waiting area. But NTSB investigators held off questioning Gallagher on Friday because of his injuries. NTSB vice chair T. Bella Dinh-Zarr said the board has been “in touch” with Gallagher and is scheduling an interview with him.

A government official said that investigators from one of the other agencies taking part in the probe interviewed Gallagher, a NJ Transit engineer for about 18 years, three times Friday. The official, who was not authorized to discuss the case and spoke on condition of anonymity, would not disclose what Gallagher said but described him as cooperative.

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THE BLACK BOX

The NTSB retrieved the event recorder that was in the locomotive at the rear of the train but hasn’t been able to download its data and has gone to the manufacturer for help, Dinh-Zarr said. The event recorder contains speed and braking information.

The NTSB also hasn’t been able to extract a recorder from the forward-facing video camera in the train’s mangled first car, Dinh-Zarr said. She said the wreckage cannot be safely entered yet because it is under a collapsed section of the station’s roof.

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THE VICTIM

Fabiola Bittar de Kroon, the crash’s sole fatality, was a young mother, talented lawyer and dedicated wife with a penchant for travel.

Thursday, the 34-year-old de Kroon was headed to the station during the morning commute. First she dropped off her toddler and had a good, but fleeting, conversation with a day care worker. A short time later, the train barreled down the tracks with such speed that it plowed into a barrier and went airborne into the station. De Kroon was buried by debris. She died as a crash bystander comforted her.

De Kroon, a 2011 master’s degree graduate from Florida International University’s College of Business, had previously lived in Florida, but was a Brazil native. She’d temporarily paused her legal career, leaving the software company SAP in Brazil after her husband got a job with an international liquor company

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TRAIN CREW MEMBERS

Investigators are gathering records on the crew members’ training, scheduling and health, Dinh-Zarr said. The engineer, conductor and brakeman “have been very cooperative,” she said.

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