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Train Speeding Before Derailed

A commuter train was going almost 60 mph above the speed limit just before it derailed, killing two people and injuring dozens, the acting chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board said Sunday.

Mark Rosenker said the Metra train was traveling at 69 mph and should not have been going faster than 10 mph when it switched tracks at a crossover just before jumping the tracks Saturday.

"Sixty-nine miles an hour is very, very fast when you're dealing with a 10-mile-an-hour restriction," Rosenker said.

The NTSB will examine several factors to determine why the train was going at that speed, including the train's three data recorders, records of the track signals and toxicology reports on the crew, he said.

Investigators already have determined that nothing was abnormal with the tracks, which had just been inspected on Friday, Rosenker said.

Seven of the injured passengers remained in "severe or serious condition," Rosenker said Sunday.

The double-decked commuter train was headed into Chicago from Joliet on Saturday morning with 185 passengers and four crew members when its locomotive and five rail cars jumped the tracks about 5 miles south of downtown.


The train and the track had just been inspected Friday, said Judy Pardonnet, a spokeswoman for Metra, the commuter rail system that services the Chicago area.

The train engineer, three crew members and dispatchers were all tested for drugs and alcohol, which is standard procedure, Pardonnet said. The engineer had been on the job for 45 days after completing Metra's six-month training program, which included at least some training along the route where the derailment occurred. He also worked for more than five years as a CSX Corp. freight train engineer.

A similar derailment occurred on the same stretch of track in 2003, injuring about 45 people. A preliminary NTSB report found that the train was going almost 70 mph at the location where it was supposed to switch from one track to the other.

Pardonnet said the two derailments may have been just a coincidence. "I don't think it's anything specific to this area, but it's still under investigation," she said.

A 22-year-old woman died on the train Saturday and a 30-year-old woman died at a hospital, said Pardonnet.

The women were the first people killed in a derailment in the history of Metra.

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