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Utah train derailment: ‘People were screaming’ at driver to slow down

Investigators will analyze on-board data recorder to learn if a mechanical error could have caused the derailment that injured four people

May 10, 2016  by Lindsay Whitehurst, The Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY—Passengers on a Salt Lake City-area light rail train that derailed May 8 said they were screaming for the driver to slow down shortly before it went off the tracks.

Authorities are looking at excessive speed as a possible factor in the accident that injured four people, though a mechanical error could also have caused the derailment.

Passenger John Pulley told The Deseret News that train operator seemed to take the turn too fast.

“People were screaming at the train driver to slow down right before it happened,” he told the newspaper. Pulley suffered several broken bones and a head wound.


A second passenger, Michael Jereb, also told the newspaper that the train seemed to pick up speed rapidly as it pulled away from a station.

Utah Transit Authority spokesman Remi Barron told the Associated Press he couldn’t comment during the investigation. He said the train derailed within seconds after leaving the station.

Barron said three people were hurt and two had been released from hospitals as of Monday afternoon. Salt Lake City Fire Department spokesman Jasen Asay said a fourth person was also injured, though he didn’t have an update on that passenger’s condition.

The operator has been put on leave and will be interviewed and tested for drugs and alcohol, as is normal for accident investigations. No additional information about the driver was immediately released.

Investigators will analyze information from an on-board data recorder as well as video recordings from inside and outside the train, which is not fully automated, Barron said.

The line remained out of service Monday morning and buses took commuters around the scene of the accident in South Salt Lake as crews lifted the train from the railyard. Service resumed Monday afternoon.

Train derailments have happened occasionally in the Utah service’s approximately 17-year history, but this is the first in memory that didn’t involve a collision with something else, Barron said.

The last time a train derailed it was because a car burst through barrier arms and collided with it in January.

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