A history of some of Amtrak's deadliest derailments

Published: Monday, December 18, 2017 @ 1:10 PM

Train Derails In Washington State, Injuries and Casualties Reported

A high-speed Amtrak train derailed in Washington state Monday morning in what law enforcement is calling a “mass casualty” event.

According to officials, the train left Tacoma, Washington, Monday morning heading southbound. At least three cars derailed from an overpass above Interstate 5 near Dupont, Washington, around 7:40 a.m. local time.

One witness told CNN that a passenger train car had “crushed” vehicles on the road below, and that railcars had fallen off both sides of the track. According to law enforcement, no one on the ground was killed. “Multiple people” riding in the train were killed, according to officials.

The train is believed to have been on its maiden run of a new high-speed service on the route. It was headed south to Portland, Oregon.

Facts about Amtrak

Amtrak was created by Congress in 1970 to take over the intercity passenger rail services previously operated by private railroad companies in the United States. Operations began on May 1, 1971. 

The name "Amtrak" results from the blending of the words "America" and "track." The railroad is officially known as the National Railroad Passenger Corporation.
 

In 2016, 31.3 million customers used Amtrak. On an average day, nearly 85,700 passengers ride more than 300 Amtrak trains.

Amtrak is a federally chartered corporation, with the federal government as majority stockholder. The board is appointed by the president of the United States and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Amtrak is operated as a for-profit company, rather than a public authority.

Amtrak is the only railroad in North America to maintain right-of-way for service at speeds in excess of 125 mph (201 kph), and its engineering forces maintain more than 350 miles of track for 100+ mph (160+ kph) service.

From National Transportation Safety Board records, here's a look at what happened in some of the worst Amtrak train crash incidents in the company’s history:

April 3, 2016: (Chester, Pa.)
Two maintenance workers were struck and killed by an Amtrak train going more than 100 mph in Chester, Pennsylvania. The lead engine of the train derailed.
March 14, 2016 (Kansas)
An Amtrak train traveling from Los Angeles to Chicago derailed in southwest Kansas, sending five cars off the tracks and injuring at least 32 people. Investigators concluded that a cattle feed delivery truck hit the track and shifted it at least a foot before the derailment.
Oct. 5, 2015 (Vermont)
A passenger train headed from Vermont to Washington, D.C., derailed when it hit rocks that had fallen onto the track from a ledge. The locomotive and a passenger car spilled down an embankment, derailing three other cars and injuring seven people.
May 12, 2015 (Philadelphia)
An eastbound Amtrak passenger train derailed after taking a curve at 100 mph, where the speed limit of that second of track is 50 mph. Eight people were killed, and more than 200 injured. High speed and human error were determined to be the cause.
March 9, 2015 (Halifax, N.C.)
At least 55 people were injured when an Amtrak train traveling from North Carolina to New Jersey derailed after colliding with an oversized tractor-trailer that was stuck on the tracks in Halifax.
June 23, 2014 (Massachusetts)
An Amtrak train hit a vehicle that was apparently driving on train tracks in Massachusetts, killing three people in the vehicle and derailing the train just before midnight in a remote area about 24 miles southwest of Boston. None of the 180 people on board the train was injured.
Oct. 21, 2012 (Niles, Mich.)
About a dozen passengers and crew members on an Amtrak train from Chicago to Pontiac, Michigan, were injured when two locomotives and one or more coaches derailed after the train lost contact with the track near Niles, Michigan.
June 24, 2011 (Nevada)
A truck slammed into the side of an Amtrak California Zephyr train at a rural crossing 70 miles east of Reno, Nevada, killing six people and injuring dozens. The train was traveling from Chicago to California.
April 18, 2002 (Crescent City, Fla.)
An Amtrak Auto Train derailed because of a heat-induced track buckle. Four people were killed and more than 140 injured.
February 16, 1996 (Silver Spring, Md.)
An Amtrak passenger train was hit by a Maryland Rail Commuter (MARC) train after the MARC train failed to stop at a junction. Eleven were killed and 26 injured. Human error was determined to be the cause of the crash.
September 22, 1993 (Mobile, Ala.)
An Amtrak train derailed into a bayou outside of Mobile, Ala., killing 47 and injuring 103. The derailment happened when a barge bumped into a railroad bridge in heavy fog, displacing it minutes before the train arrived.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

James Comey to teach ethical leadership course at College of William & Mary

Published: Friday, January 19, 2018 @ 9:50 AM

James Comey Testimony: Key Points

Former FBI Director James Comey will teach an ethical leadership course for his alma mater, Virginia’s College of William & Mary, starting in the fall, the school announced Friday.

>> Read more trending news

Comey, who was dismissed as director of the FBI by President Donald Trump in May 2017, was named an executive professor in education at William & Mary on Friday. School officials said he will teach ethical leadership during the fall 2018, spring 2019 and summer 2019 semesters with Drew Stelljes, an executive assistant professor of education and assistant vice president for student leadership at William & Mary.

“Our students will benefit significantly from his experience and wisdom,” William & Mary President Taylor Reveley said in a news release. “He understands to the core of his being that our leaders must have an abiding commitment to ethical behavior and sacrificial service if we are to have good government.”

>> Related: Comey told Trump 3 times he was not under investigation

The course will be taught predominantly in Washington, D.C., at the William & Mary Washington Center, school officials said. One class will be live-streamed to students in Washington, D.C., and taught at the William & Mary School of Education in Williamsburg, Virginia.

"I am thrilled to have the chance to engage with William & Mary students about a vital topic — ethical leadership,” Comey said in a news release. “Ethical leaders lead by seeing above the short term, above the urgent or the partisan, and with a higher loyalty to lasting values, most importantly the truth. Building and maintaining that kind of leadership, in both the private sector and government, is the challenge of our time.”

>> Reports: Trump's controversial decisions in office under scrutiny by Mueller

Comey ran the Richmond, Virginia, division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia f om 1996 to 2001, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. During that time, he also worked as an adjunct law professor at the University of Richmond, the news site reported.

President Barack Obama appointed Comey as director of the FBI in September 2013.

Former FBI Director James Comey leaves a closed session with the Senate Intelligence Committee in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill June 8, 2017 in Washington, DC. Comey said that President Donald Trump pressured him to drop the FBI's investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and demanded Comey's loyalty during the one-on-one meetings he had with president. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)(Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

He faced criticism during and after the 2016 presidential election for his handling of an FBI investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server during her time in office. His decision to release a letter to Congress informing lawmakers of newly uncovered Clinton emails just weeks before the election had a strong impact on the vote, according to analysts.

>> Related: FBI opens investigation into new Clinton emails

Comey said two days before the election that nothing new or incriminating was found in the emails.

Comey was fired by Trump amid an ongoing investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and its possible ties to Trump campaign officials.

>> Related: Trump tweets: 'I am being investigated for firing the FBI director'

In congressional testimony, Comey said he felt the president tried to get him to drop an investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who was forced to resign less than a month into his tenure after it was revealed that he lied to Vice President Mike Pence about his contact with Russian officials.

>> Related: Read James Comey’s complete testimony before the Senate committee

The White House denied that the dismissal was related to the Russia investigation, although Trump later told NBC News that he had “this Russia thing” on his mind when making the decision.

Comey earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry and religion at William & Mary in 1982.

Man who dove off his fishing boat when motor boat crashed into his vessel files $372k lawsuit

Published: Friday, January 19, 2018 @ 9:43 AM

Fisherman Involved In Near-Death Boat Crash Files Lawsuit

A fisherman who had to jump into the Columbia River to avoid being crushed in a boating crash has filed a lawsuit against the person who was captaining the other vessel.

Clatsop County Sheriff’s Department said that the motor boat driver, Marlin Lee Larsen, 75, was sitting down while driving his boat and that he couldn’t see over the dash when he crashed into the fishing boat that Bryan Maess, 47, and two other friends were on, Oregon Live reported.

>> Read more trending news 

A GoPro camera captured the crash that happened in August. Christopher McMahon, one of Maess’ friends, waved his arms and yelled, trying to get Larsen’s attention. When that didn’t work, and it was apparent that the larger boat was going to crash into theirs, Maess, McMahon and Roni Durham jumped into the water.

Investigators found that if they had not abandoned ship, the friends would have been injured or even killed.

Maess, however, was injured by jumping into the water and being hit by debris, including injuries to his ankle, leg and arm, vision problems and headaches. He still wears a knee brace, according to the lawsuit, in which he is suing Larsen for $372,500, Oregon Live reported.

McMahon and Durham have not filed suit yet, but have started the process. Both are said to have suffered hypothermia and cuts. Durham claims she has suffered psychological trauma and hasn’t been on a boat since the accident.

Larsen’s son-in-law was on the boat driven by Larsen at the time of the crash. He told police that he warned Larsen to pay attention and that he had seen his father-in-law on his cellphone in the past, including the day of, but not at the time of, the accident.

Larsen told Oregon Live that he wasn’t using the device while he was driving the boat and that the allegations were “fake news.” He also said that the lawsuit, in his opinion, was not necessary since the other people were not hurt badly.

Larsen also has a criminal case filed against him, in which he has pleaded not guilty to reckless operation of a boat, fourth-degree assault and recklessly endangering the lives of others, Oregon Live reported.

FILE PHOTO: The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.(Natalie Behring/Getty Images)

Government shutdown: What would close; would you get your Social Security check; what would happen to SNAP, WIC

Published: Thursday, January 18, 2018 @ 12:35 PM

What You Need to Know: Government Shutdown

The fight over a border wall, the fate of nearly 800,000 DACA recipients, and the wrangling over the funding of an insurance program for children could force a U.S. government shutdown after midnight on Friday if Congress does not pass legislation that would keep the government up and running.

While negotiations on a temporary spending bill, called a continuing resolution, are ongoing, House Republican leaders said late Wednesday that  they lacked the votes to prevent a shutdown, but that they are pressing members to back Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, (R-Wisconsin), on the  temporary spending bill.

“I think it passes,” Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker, (R-North Carolina), told reporters on Wednesday. “I don’t think it’s overwhelming, but I think it passes.”

 >>Read more trending news

What would happen if no bill is passed and the government “shuts down?” Here’s what to expect:

First, a government shutdown doesn’t mean the government completely shuts down. Employees and services deemed “essential” would remain in place. About half of the federal employee workforce, however, could be furloughed – sent home without pay.

Government agencies would shut down because of the lack of a bill that funds services those agencies provide. What Congress will be considering Thursday night and Friday is a continuing resolution, a way to temporarily fund the government.

What is a continuing resolution?
A continuing resolution, or “CR,” is legislation that funds government operations at the current spending level. In normal years, a bill that funds government operations is signed by Oct. 1, which is the end of the fiscal year. That didn’t happen this year.

CRs can fund the government for days, weeks or months. The CR that could be considered Thursday would fund the government through Feb. 16.

Here is a list of services and how they would be affected if a CR is not passed by Friday night:
Air travel
Air travel would not be affected as federal air traffic controllers would remain on the job and Transportation Security Administration screeners would remain in place.
Federal court
For about two weeks, federal courts would continue operating normally. After that time, the judiciary would have to furlough employees not considered essential.
Food safety
The Food and Drug Administration would handle high-risk recalls. Most routine safety inspections would be halted.
Health
Patients in the National Institutes of Health would continue to be treated. New patients would not be accepted until a funding bill is in place.
International travel 
You could still get a passport and visa applications would still be processed by the State Department. Fees collected when someone applies for a visa or a passport fund those services.
Loans 
The Federal Housing Administration, the agency that guarantees about 30 percent of all American home mortgages, wouldn't be able to underwrite or approve any new loans during a shutdown, causing a delay for those using one of those loans to purchase a home. 
The mail
You would still get mail, as the U.S. Postal Service is not funded by taxpayer dollars for everyday operations.
Military
Active-duty military personnel would stay on duty, but their paychecks would be delayed.
National parks
All national parks would be closed, as would the Smithsonian museums. Visitors in overnight campgrounds in national parks would be given 48 hours to make alternate arrangements and leave the park.
School lunches, SNAP and WIC
School breakfasts and lunches funded by the federal government would not be affected. The Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, or WIC, could be affected. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, which used to be called the Food Stamp Program, would continue to be funded and SNAP benefits would continue to be distributed. But several smaller feeding programs would not have the money to operate.
Science
The National Weather Service would keep forecasting weather.
Social Security
Social Security, Medicare and unemployment benefits would be paid, but new applications for those payments could be delayed. 
Veterans services
Most services offered through the Department of Veterans Affairs would continue.
Sources: The Associated Press; Politicothe Congressional Research Service

  

Boston University study finds repeated hits to the head can cause CTE, without concussions

Published: Thursday, January 18, 2018 @ 10:27 PM

10 Things to Know About CTE

Kimberly Archie was pleased to hear about the new findings on chronic brain injuries released by Boston University on Thursday. 

>> Read more trending news

Doctors at BU have found constant hits to young athletes – even without concussions – cause Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE. 

Archie says this better explains how her son died.

“I think it's great that peer-reviewed research has finally caught up to what a lot of us have known for a long time,” she told Boston 25 News. “And it seemed very suspect the way he died because the behavior was so erratic.”

Archie says her son died at age 24 from reckless driving that seemed suicidal, but she didn't understand why, until she had his brain autopsied and found he suffered from CTE after playing football from age 7 to 15.

“My son never had any brain injuries or what a lot of people like to call a concussion,” Archie said. 

The new research could change the way some sports are played. The athletic director at Walpole High School says he already plans to talk to coaches about the findings from BU, to find ways players can avoid those dangerous hits.

Ron Dowd says the new findings that hard hits can cause brain damage in several sports at a young age -- makes sense. 

“The more education, the more proof that you have is always better, you're always looking to improve” Dowd said. 

He plans to work with coaches to show players how to make tackles and plays without injuring their brain.

“You can still encompass techniques and so forth, still get your point across and not be slamming heads,” he said. 

Dowd says game rules could also be changed in the future to prevent CTE after this new research.

Archie hopes the new research helps other families avoid the loss she's had.

“It's different once you have the proof and you look back, then it becomes crystal clear,” she said.