Extracting data from recorders in train crash may take days

Federal investigators are working to extract data from an event recorder on board a New Jersey commuter train that crashed last week, killing a woman and injuring more than 100 others, but say it may be a few days before they release the information.

National Transportation Safety Board investigators recovered the data recorder, a video recorder and the train engineer's cellphone from the front car of the NJ Transit train on Tuesday afternoon. The equipment was sent to an agency lab in Washington for analysis, officials said.

"We are extracting the data and will be providing a characterization of the data within the next few days," NTSB spokesman Chris O'Neil said Wednesday.

At a news briefing on Tuesday afternoon, NTSB Investigator James Southworth said he didn't yet know whether the recorders had any useful data. A second event recorder that was retrieved from the locomotive in the rear of the train wasn't functioning on the day of the crash, officials have said.

The recorder that was retrieved on Tuesday appeared to be in "fairly good shape," Southworth said.

"We expect the recorders will be able to provide the investigators with speed information, throttle positions, braking system information, and about 100 other parameters, as well as a video image of the accident," Southworth added.

A woman standing on a platform at Hoboken Terminal was killed by debris in Thursday's crash as the train smashed through a concrete-and-steel bumper and caused a section of the station's roof to collapse. More than 100 people were injured.

The train's engineer, Thomas Gallagher, told investigators that he had no memory of the crash and only remembered waking up on the floor of the engineer's cab, but said he was operating at 10 mph as he approached the station, said T. Bella Dinh-Zarr, the NTSB's vice chair.

A U.S. official told The Associated Press on Tuesday that based on the damage caused to the station, investigators estimated the train was going between 20 and 30 mph -- above the station's 10 mph speed limit. The official, who was briefed on the investigation, wasn't authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.

That estimate was based on the extent of damage caused by the crash, not on information from the train's instruments, the official said.

Last Thursday's crash caused far more damage than a 1985 crash at the station in which a train hit an end-of-track bumper at 10 mph. That crash buckled a concrete platform and toppled a few metal gates, but the train remained within the track area, according to photos, video and witness accounts at the time. Federal investigators blamed that wreck on slippery gel left on the tracks after wheel testing,

NJ Transit has not responded to repeated requests for comment.


Associated Press writer Michael R. Sisak in Philadelphia contributed to this report.

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