NTSB: Track problem found 2 days before train crash

Bridgeport Police block the intersection of Fairfield Avenue and State Street Friday, May 17, after two trains collided on the tracks above. The train is visible on the trestle. (John Kovach Photo)

Police cars and fire trucks block Fairfield Avenue as crews worked to evacuate passengers from two trains that collided after one derailed shortly after 6 p.m. Friday, May 17. (John Kovach Photo)

Police cars and fire trucks block Fairfield Avenue as crews worked to evacuate passengers from two trains that collided after one derailed shortly after 6 p.m. Friday, May 17. (John Kovach Photo)

An American Medical Response ambulance heads from Fairfield Avenue toward downtown after the May 17 train derailment and collision. (John Kovach Photo)

A Bridgeport firefighter walks toward Fairfield Avenue during the response to the Friday, May 17, train accident. (John Kovach Photo)

Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch is briefed by Metro-North workers where a train derailed and was struck by another train Friday, May 17. (John Kovach Photo)

Passengers who were on trains involved in the Friday, May 17, accident are escorted to a bus by Metro-North workers. (John Kovach Photo)

A Fairfield Police car escorts a bus carrying passengers who were on two trains that collided Friday, May 17, from the accident scene. (John Kovach Photo)

Metro-North crews inspect the trains that collided Friday, May 17, shortly after passengers were removed from the area. (John Kovach Photo)

Fairfield Police Chief Gary MacNamara shares information with Fairfield First Selectman Michael Tetreau the evening of Friday, May 17, after two trains collided at the Fairfield-Bridgeport line. (John Kovach Photo)

Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Fairfield First Selectman Michael Tetreau address the media at the scene of a train crash Friday evening, May 17. (John Kovach Photo)

Fairfield First Selectmen and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy are shown the damage caused by the train accident the previous night by crews from Metro-North and the National Transportation Safety Board on Saturday, May 18. (Contributed Photo)

Sen. Chris Murphy is showed the rail cars damaged in a May 17 collision by investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board as they begin working to determine a cause the day after. (Contributed Photo)

MTA Police guard the scene of the May 17 train crash Saturday afternoon, May 18. (Julie Miller Photo)

Trains damaged in a May 17 collision sit on the tracks the next day as investigators begin to collect evidence. (Julie Miller Photo)

Television remote trucks spent the weekend parked at the McDonald's at Fairfield Avenue and State Street in Bridgeport, just a few feet from the train crash scene. (Julie Miller Photo)

Television crews relax between updates Saturday, May 18, after two trains collided at the Bridgeport-Fairfield line the previous evening. (Julie Miller Photo)

Trains damaged in a May 17 collision sit on the tracks the next day as investigators begin to collect evidence. (Julie Miller Photo)

As crews removed cars from the tracks Sunday, May 19, the damage left by the impact two days prior was revealed. (John Kovach Photo)

As crews removed cars from the tracks Sunday, May 19, the damage left by the impact two days prior was revealed. (John Kovach Photo)

As crews removed cars from the tracks Sunday, May 19, the damage left by the impact two days prior was revealed. (John Kovach Photo)

As crews removed cars from the tracks Sunday, May 19, the damage left by the impact two days prior was revealed. (John Kovach Photo)

As crews removed cars from the tracks Sunday, May 19, the damage left by the impact two days prior was revealed. (John Kovach Photo)

As crews removed cars from the tracks Sunday, May 19, the damage left by the impact two days prior was revealed. (John Kovach Photo)

Metro-North crews work to remove damaged cars from the tracks so they can be repaired Sunday, May 19. (John Kovach Photo)

Metro-North crews work to remove damaged cars from the tracks so they can be repaired Sunday, May 19. (John Kovach Photo)

Parking spaces remained mostly empty at the Fairfield Metro station Monday, May 20, as many seemed to have taken heed to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and worked from home. (John Kovach Photo)

Buses line up waiting for commuters Monday, May 20, as the Fairfield area faced a commute without trains. But few showed up to ride the buses. (John Kovach Photo)

A rare sight for a Monday around 8 a.m. - empty parking spaces at the downtown Fairfield Station May 20, as Metro-North service was suspended due to the crash Friday, May 17. (John Kovach Photo)

Police and Metro-North workers await a crowd of commuters that never materialized on a day without trains Monday, May 20. Service was restored by the next afternoon, commutes returned to normal Wednesday, May 22. (John Kovach Photo)

Indications of problems with the tracks where a Metro-North train derailed and was struck by another train were found two days before the May 17 accident, according to a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board.

The crash of two trains injured 75 people, according to the NTSB.

There were about 250 people on each train at the time of the crash, according to the NTSB, which occurred about 6 p.m. Friday, May 17, at the Bridgeport-Fairfield line, where tracks cross under I-95 and over Fairfield Avenue.

During a thrice-weekly inspection on May 15, workers found a joint “with inadequate supporting ballast and indications of vertical movement of the track system,” according to the NTSB report, which the agency stressed is preliminary.

A train heading east from Grand Central Terminal to New Haven derailed when it hit that joint, shortly after leaving the Fairfield Metro station. The first car reportedly remained on the track, while subsequent cars jumped.

The cars that derailed were then struck by a westbound train that had just left the Bridgeport station. The westbound train scraped against the derailed cars and gouged into one.

The maximum speed authorized in the area of the crash is 70 miles per hour. There are four tracks there, but only two were operational due to an ongoing electrical project.

“Initial information obtained from onboard event recorders indicates that the eastbound  train was traveling at about 70 mph when it derailed,” the NTSB report reads. “After the eastbound train came to rest, it  was fouling the adjacent track, track 2, and was struck about 20 seconds later by the  westbound train. Initial information from the event recorders indicate that the westbound train  engineer applied the emergency brakes, slowing from 70 mph to 23 mph prior to striking the  eastbound train.”

Metro-North estimated the damage — both trains were new M8 models — at $18 million.

Rail service was suspended until the next Wednesday, when track repairs were completed.

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