"Unusual Condition" Seen Before Conn. Metro-North Derailment, NTSB Says

Friday, May 24, 2013  |  Updated 2:15 PM EDT
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A normal commute home quickly turned to chaos Friday when two Metro-North trains collided after one train derailed near the border of Fairfield and Bridgeport in Connecticut. Checkey Beckford reports.

A normal commute home quickly turned to chaos Friday when two Metro-North trains collided after one train derailed near the border of Fairfield and Bridgeport in Connecticut. Checkey Beckford reports.

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Federal officials investigating last week's commuter train derailment in Connecticut say the engineer described an "unusual condition" on the track before the train derailed.

The National Transportation Safety Board said it has not yet determined a cause of the May 17 crash that injured more than 70 people and disrupted service for days on the railroad used by tens of thousands of commuters.

But the NTSB did say that a joint bar, used to hold two sections of rail together, had been cracked and repaired last month and that rail sections in the area of the derailment have been shipped to Washington for further examination.

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Metro-North railroad is conducting an inspection and inventory of all the joint bars on its main tracks, NTSB said.

The eastbound train from New York City derailed during evening rush hour in Bridgeport, came to a stop and was struck about 20 seconds later by a westbound train, NTSB said. The westbound engineer applied the emergency brakes before striking the eastbound train, NTSB said.

The eastbound engineer told investigators he saw an unusual condition on the track as he approached the area, NTSB said.

It's not clear what caused the crash but repair work done in the area weeks before it may have weakened the track, George Cahill, an attorney representing six Metro-North workers injured in the crash, said this week. He also expressed concern that wheels on the new trains were too tight.

NTSB said it has completed the on-scene phase of the investigation and will now analyze the information gathered. Investigators have collected photos, video and other evidence, completed mechanical inspections of the rail cars, the track and signal system, interviewed employees, witnesses and first responders and documented the accident site, NTSB said.

Attorneys for a 65-year-old woman injured in the crash said they have filed a lawsuit alleging negligence by Metro-North.

Attorney Joel Faxon said the suit was filed Friday in federal court in Bridgeport to gain access to witnesses and allow victims and their families to be involved in the investigation. He said it was the first federal lawsuit stemming from crash.

He said his client, Elizabeth Sorensen of Bridgeport, remains in critical condition with a brain injury and multiple bone fractures.

A Metro-North spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment about the lawsuit.

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