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NTSB: Event Recorder Not Functioning Day Of NJ TRANSIT Crash

HOBOKEN, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- One event recorder recovered so far from the NJ TRANSIT commuter train that crashed in Hoboken killing one and injuring more than 100 more was not functioning on the day of the crash, officials said Sunday.

The locomotive's 21-year-old recorder has information on train speed.

"Unfortunately, the event recorder was not functioning during the trip," National Transportation Safety Board vice chair T. Bella Dinh-Zarr said.

Dinh-Zarr said she's hopeful the data recorder in the cab control car in the front of the train is functional. However, as CBS2's Hazel Sanchez reports, investigators haven't been able to extract that recorder because it's under a collapsed section of the train station's roof.

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"Pieces of the canopy have actually pierced the top of the car. On the north side, the beams look like a dangerous version of pickup sticks. We've all played that game of pickup sticks and if you incorrectly pull out one stick, it affects integrity of the other sticks. And of course in this case, the consequences would be very serious," Dinh-Zarr said.

NTSB investigator Jim Southworth added that it's a "federal requirement that the lead cab car have a working event recorder."

Dinh-Zarr said the train's engineer, 48-year-old Thomas Gallagher, told investigators the train was operating properly before it crashed Thursday morning. The engineer also said the train was operating at 10 mph as it approached the station. He told investigators he has no memory of the crash.

"As he approached the end of the station platform, he said that he blew the horn, he checked his speedometer and started ringing the bell. He said he looked at his watch and noticed the train was about six minutes late," Dinh-Zarr explained. "He said that when he checked the speedometer he was operating at 10 miles per hour when entering the station track. The engineer says he has no memory of the accident. He remembers waking up on the floor of the cab."

Investigators said the conductor said he didn't see anything unusual about the speed of the train.

Dinh-Zarr said the train was very crowded because it was one car short. The conductor told investigators he was unable to collect fares because it was so crowded.

WCBS 880's Kelly Waldron reports the track could handle speeds of up to 43 miles per hour, but the posted speed is 30.

The signals on the tracks leading to Hoboken Terminal appear to be working normally and officials completed a walking inspection of the track, finding nothing that would have affected the performance of the train, the NTSB said in an update Saturday. Investigators have obtained video from other trains that were inside the train station when the crash occurred.

Signs posted at a NJ TRANSIT maintenance facility in Hoboken, dated February, said there had been 10 incidents involving trains in the prior two months, including five derailments. The sign said the "serious incidents reflect a dangerous trend" and that the main cause of the incidents appeared to be caused by human error.

A spokesman for NJ TRANSIT didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

NJ TRANSIT trains have been involved in more than 150 accidents that caused more than $4.8 million in damage to tracks or equipment since 2011, and the commuter rail has paid more than $500,000 to settle safety violations, according to federal data.

Federal Railroad Administration information shows that NJ TRANSIT settled 183 safety violations -- ranging from employee drug and alcohol use to violations of railroad operating rules or practices -- since Jan. 1, 2011. The settlement payments include about $70,000 for more than a dozen safety violations in 2014 and 2015. Statistics for the current year are not yet available.

Months before Thursday's deadly commuter train crash in Hoboken, New Jersey, federal rail officials found dozens of violations during an audit focusing on NJ TRANSIT's safety and operations, a U.S. official confirmed Saturday.

The official, who was familiar with the railroad administration audit, spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the official wasn't authorized to speak publicly about an ongoing investigation.

The railroad administration began an audit in June after noticing an uptick in rail incidents and found "dozens of safety violations" that needed to be fixed immediately, the official said. The commuter rail agency was fined as a result of the audit, the official said, adding that federal agencies are continuing to work with the railroad to ensure compliance with federal rail safety guidelines.

There were 25 accidents in 2015 and 10 in the first seven months of 2016, but none caused injuries or death, federal data showed. Most of the incidents occurred at low speeds and more than half were in train yards.

(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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