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Amtrak train derailment that killed two workers reportedly caused by a ‘colossal' mistake

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Maintenance work was being done on the wrong track

Mark Makela/Getty Images

The two construction crew members who were killed by an Amtrak train Sunday, causing a massive derailment, may have been conducting maintenance work on the wrong track, CNN reported today. The train, which was carrying about 330 passengers, smashed into a backhoe outside of Philadelphia, killing the two workers and injuring 35 people on board the train.

A source close to the investigation told CNN the two construction workers, who reportedly have been identified as the backhoe operator and his supervisor, made a "colossal" mistake by operating on the wrong track. Investigators will now be tasked with determining why the two men were working on an "active line" about 15 miles southwest of Philadelphia. Initially the focus will be on Amtrak's procedures for its construction workers, and whether there was a breakdown somewhere in that process.

A spokesperson for Amtrak directed all inquiries to the National Transportation Safety Board, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment. "We're still gathering the facts," said Ryan Frigo, the National Transportation Safety Board official in charge of investigating the crash, told CNN.

Meanwhile, the rail industry was able to recently extend the deadline on its legal requirement to install positive train control, an automated braking technology that experts believe provides a needed check on human error and prevents deadly derailments. Critics accuse rail companies of dragging their feet. There's no immediate indication that PTC would have prevented yesterday's deadly derailment.

Updated April 3rd 12:58PM ET: A spokesperson for NTSB said, "The NTSB is continuing with its investigative process and is gathering facts about Sunday's Amtrak accident."


More on Positive Train Control and the impact it could have had on Amtrak's last crash in May of 2015